Wind Energy Scenario in India Today

In my 24 years long wind energy career, I haven’t seen such a worst time ever. The last success came in 2017 and, after that, it is only waiting for a brighter tomorrow.

Our country is the third biggest carbon emitter across the world. And with that, it has an ambitious commitment to contribute to the global initiative to control climate change.

The world wants to restrict the global temperature rise within 2 deg. C (preferably below 1.5 deg. C) from pre-industrial era level. Wind energy as a part of renewable energy resources has a significant role to play in this endeavour.

wind energy
image wind-power-1019780_1920.jpg from unsplash

But what we are witnessing in India? 

Wind energy which was growing lips and bounds until 2017, has slowed down due to various regulatory barriers. Covid-19 crisis has also added to it.

Even at its dull phase during the last two years, wind energy has helped India mitigating 50.87 million tons of carbon dioxide. Such is the potential of wind energy. 

In 2017 India’s wind energy had picked with an installation of an all-time high of 5.5 GW. After that, though the targets for 2018 and 2019 were 4 GW each year, the year 2018 ended up with an achievement of 47 per cent and, the year 2019 could achieve only 37 per cent of the target.

Looking at the situation, the target of 2019 pulled down to 3 GW and the year ended up with the addition of 2.3 GW only. 

And in the last year, in 2020,  the addition of capacity was a meagre 1.1.GW. Lowest ever in the decade!

What is the reason for this downfall?

There are a couple of reasons on the ground. First was the low tariff cap and burdensome tender conditions for which investors lost their interest and, three wind auctions were undersubscribed or cancelled lately.

Moreover, challenges are persisting related to grid capacity and land availability along with off-taker risk.

The behaviour of DISCOM is another issue of prime concern.

And at the top of it, the sudden attack of a pandemic resulting in nationwide lockdown had caused a complete disruption in the business process, delaying the execution of the running projects.

About 2 GW of projects which were to get completed in 2020 has now slipped to 2021. The Union Government has also extended a helping hand granting a five-month extension to these projects for completion considering the pandemic situation.

At the moment, four major players (IPPs) are operating at the forefront. They are Renew Power, Sembcorp Green infra, Alfanar and, Adani Green Energy. These IPP’s are responsible for 70 per cent of total installations in 2020. 

However, experts are projecting that there is a potential to add about 3.2 GW of new wind energy capacity in 2021.

 The union government is also pushing for it now. 

wind energy in India
Photo by Alex Fu from Pexels

What About the Target Taken in Paris Climate Agreement?

The target is to achieve 175 GW of renewable energy by 2022, out of which 60 GW is wind energy. And the government has set an extended target to attain a total of 450 GW of renewable capacity by 2030. 

The share of wind energy would be 140 GW in this 450GW.

 The present status of the sector doesn’t support it and, it is appearing very difficult to hit the 60 GW target in time.

As of Dec 31, 2020, the total wind energy capacity installed is only 38.62 GW. Therefore about 21 GW has to be installed in the next 24 months. It means 10.5 GW per year is the asking rate.

It seems to be a target only for daydreaming. If I consider a repeat performance of the best so far achieved by the Indian wind energy industry (i.e.5 GW), even then, there will be a shortfall of about 10 GW to touch 60 GW. GWEC Marketing Intelligence is also expecting the same thing.

GWEC, Q3 2020 Market Outlook believes that India will have to reduce its onshore wind installation target for the next five years by 29 per cent (by 6.1 GW).

 In that case, the commitment to renewable addition will go into jeopardy.

 I foresee an average capacity addition of 3.5 GW per year for 2021 & 2022 in a best-case scenario. So at the end of 2022, we will ( most probably )have 46 GW of wind energy installation in India in place of the targeted 60 GW.

Surprisingly, the union government is still confident about the 175 GW renewable energy target by 2022, so I guess they might have drawn a plan to compensate for the loss in wind energy with solar and other forms of renewables.

If I look to the next level target of 140 GW of wind energy by 2030, it is projecting an addition of 94/96 GW (more or less) in the next eight years with an average of 12 GW per year.

The asking rate thus is immensely challenging. So far, the wind energy industry probably didn’t think of it and had initiated any action to address this opportunity. However, nothing is impossible if the determination is strong enough and gets translated into actions in time.

What is the status of the wind energy manufacturing sector as of now?

Post the slump in 2017 onwards wind energy manufacturing sector is continuously shrinking. A couple of turbine manufacturing units had either closed down the activity or working with a slender team.

In my estimation, the manufacturing sector can produce something between 4.8 GW to 6 GW per year at this moment in a best-case scenario.

We have already calculated the projected demand would be for 12 GW per year from 2023 onwards. So, it is asking for double the present manufacturing capacity.

wind energy turbine manufacturing
image by Debasis Gupta

Will it be able to double up the capacity by the end of next year?

Not impossible though, but demands for fast action. In my opinion, along with other many, a major challenge could be trained personnel. 

As per the GETI report, the wind energy industry worldwide is passing through a shortage of trained people to support the growth. India is not an exception. I have experienced this challenge many times in my carrier.

According to the IRENA report, currently, about 58,000 people are engaged in the wind power industry. Therefore to double up the capacity of the industry-I guess- another 30,000 to 40,000 new recruitments will be necessary within the next two years.  

Hiring people from other industry or fresh from institutes and train them for the wind energy sector is a specialised and dedicated task that needs some amount of time and can’t be done overnight. 

Wind Energy & Self-reliant India 

During the annual Global RE-Invest Conference organised by MNRE, held in the last week of November 2020, GWEC announced the establishment of GWEC India. It is a piece of good news indeed. A new platform to work on the country’s huge wind potential.

GWEC can work to improve many weak areas like,

Building local supply capacity to support ‘Growth’ demand,

Implementing best international practices.

Can work to smoothen regulatory bottlenecks.

Can work to improve cooperation between industry and the government.

GWEC can act as a catalyst to support the country to execute its mission of ‘Self-reliant India (Atma Nirbhar Bharat)’.The wind energy sector in India has the necessary potential to play the role of the torchbearer in this mission by becoming the manufacturing hub for the world.

I consider this as a lifetime opportunity for the Indian wind energy sector. Be it attaining its ambitious wind energy targets or the aspiration to become the renewable/wind energy manufacturing hub for the world.