Covid-19 has impacted the world and it is a reminder for all that nature is supreme when it comes to restoring the balance. We had seen cleaner air and cleaner environment during the lockdown period but if we do not learn from our mistakes and take major steps in addressing those, then we would end up worsening the situation again. Our dependency on fossil fuels, which are rapidly depleting, has cost us a lot in terms of global warming, air pollution and loss of biodiversity and these environmental damages are unsustainable. It is now a high time for us to switch to alternative sources for our energy needs.
To adopt alternative source of energy, India has set its renewable energy target of 175 GW for 2022, of which 100 GW is to be achieved by solar, 60 GW by wind, 10 GW by small hydropower, and 5 GW by biomass. Solar being the easiest to install with the lowest requirement of maintenance among others, the 100 GW has been assigned to it, of which about 37 GW has been installed by now.
Moreover, with just one year left, the adoption of solar needs to happen at a more rapid rate to meet the target.
The solar industry has been impacted due to Covid-19 and this has been a wake-up call. The Indian solar industry is massively dependent on imports from other countries, especially China, which is the major exporter of solar, manufacturing around 80% of the cells, modules and other solar components. The lockdown resulting in work restrictions in China has negatively impacted the solar industry by causing a huge shortfall in meeting the demand, thus resulting in delays in completion of projects and hence lack of growth. This geo-political scenario impacted the supply and caused increase in hardware prices across the industry.
To curb this dependency on imports, India needs to set up several dedicated manufacturing facilities to meet the demand and become self-sufficient. With the increase in manufacturing facilities, it will lead to rising employment opportunities in this sector.
Thus, given the favourable fiscal situation, adoption of solar, which is the easiest to install of all other renewable energy systems, does become the logical alternative to conventional ways of energy generation. Apart from being the cheaper alternative to conventional fuels like coal, solar energy can become a solution to one of India’s biggest challenges of unemployment, which has only been amplified by the pandemic. An annual review 2020 report by IRENA (RE & Jobs) noted that in 2019, the solar Photovoltaic (PV) industry has created 2,04,000 jobs in India and the same is poised to increase in the future.
The solar ecosystem in India has come a long way and is further evolving to become self-reliant on technology, manufacturing, hardware supplies and financing to fuel continued growth. Solar policies on generation, transmission, banking and net-metering require more attention from the government sector.
While solar adoption at utility-scale is growing fast, the rooftop (distributed) solar segment is not keeping its pace as projected in mission 2022. And limiting net-metering to less than 10 kW project has created major discomfort in consumers, installers and developers, since its announcement. This requires urgent reconsideration from the Ministry of Power and net-metering should be allowed for roof-top systems irrespective of size.
We are more optimistic than ever before as, after unlock-1 the residential, commercial and industrial segment has seen a rapid shift in adopting solar. We should use this critical period to bring in positive reforms and carry out structural changes to build a strong and sustained RE future. To quote Albert Einstein, “in the midst of every crisis, lies great opportunity”. Backed by reforms and awareness, Solar could become the next big thing as a solution not just for our environmental problems but also towards cost savings, sustainable development, creating employment and meeting our international RE commitments.
Views expressed above are the author’s own.
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