India is the third-largest energy consumer in the world. However, the rigorous lockdown has changed the situation. Today, India is facing a huge decrease in energy demands. Before the pandemic, the nation was at the forefront of the worldwide energy transition. It had the aim of a 175-gigawatt (GW) sustainable power source limit by 2022. This was going to experience a move up to 450 GW by 2030. But, national peak demand has fallen from 165 GW to 125 GW during the lockdown. This large-scale variation needs more adaptability, which will bridge the demand and supply gap amid this lockdown.
Therefore, the Ministry of New and Renewable Energy (MNRE), issued an office memorandum on April 1, 2020. The ministry clarified the ‘Must Run’ status of RE generating stations. This status would stay unaltered all through the lockdown period.
COVID-19 Impact on Renewable Transition
The Rindings of the Report on Energy Progress
The Tracking SDG 7: The Energy Progress Report, sheds some light on this issue. It said that India made huge progress to achieve various SDG’s before the pandemic. Despite these advances, worldwide endeavors are lacking to arrive at key focuses of SDG 7 by 2030. This report is based on the global investigation of ongoing patterns and strategies. These strategies are the ones identified with SDG 7 targets viz access to electricity, clean cooking, renewables, energy efficiency, and international financial flows. Moreover, there is a fast development of solar and wind power in the country. Despite this, the use of sustainable power sources is not up to the mark.
COVID-19 and Renewable Energy
The Ministry of Home Affairs included power as an essential service on March 24, 2020. This inclusion affected many ongoing renewable energy projects. The ministry cleared through another guideline. The development of renewable power source ventures can continue outside containment zones. This nationwide lockdown has worsened the situation for many many service providers. It has forced them to issue force majeure notices to renewable power generators. This is due to their inability to provide services in certain areas. These areas are those where the inter-district transport is restricted. Consequently, this had a major blow on the release of payments and the generation of power.
Furthermore, many new projects have come to a deadlock. The migrant crisis adds to the misery due to the time needed to reach all the needed workers at project sites. Although the renewable energy projects are bid competitively, the low demand will affect power production post lockdown. Some distribution companies also declared to invoke force majeure clauses with their generator companies. This came as a shock since the Ministry of Power has allowed payment relaxation for 3 months (till June 30, 2020). It also reduced rates of late payment surcharge to distribution companies.
Steps to Reinstate the Growth of the Economy
Needless to say, conventional energy is abundant in India. But due to COVID-19, India is relaxing its environment norms. Symptomatically, it will speed up the recovery and hold a declining economy. Further, under the EIA notification 2020, India exempts some of the projects. These projects do not have to go through assessments and public hearings. In India, the renewable sector accounted for 15.6 percent of the generation in January. This also includes large hydro energy. Moreover, January is a lean season for hydro energy. It is imperative to note that solar, wind, small hydro, and biomass contributed 9.11 percent, which is 8.55 percent up from the same period last year. Renewable Purchase Obligation (RPO) also varies from state to state for distribution utilities. Not only this, the Electricity (Amendment) Bill, 2020, also proposes to harmonize the standard. It aims to put up a steeper target.
India’s power sector performance is expected to see a significant decline in 2020-21. This is due to the prolonged disruptions caused by the pandemic. On the back of lower power demand, power generation would also see a significant decline. Renewable energy is critical for accomplishing SDG 7. It is also crucial for building sustainable and balanced economies post lockdown. Now, it is high time for intense global participation to meet the energy demand-supply gap. India needs to expand its sustainability to speed up recovery measures. The government should also take the necessary steps. They must ensure that the project developers do not accrue losses. At the moment, India is facing various challenges. Hence, the government support will be a huge help. It will be a great opportunity for the renewable energy industry to construct a resourceful energy future.
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