A renewed lease on life? Renewable energy in India Vs ChinaA renewed lease on life? Renewable energy in India Vs China
May 1, 2017

~ By Charmaine Mirza Renewable Energy in India vs. China: A New Lease on Life?

Even as Beijing’s citizens are making “lung cleansing” trips to Antarctica and Iceland to break free of a fossil-fuel smog encased China, the Chinese government is already taking action to make its citizens breathe easier. Perhaps Delhi needs to sit up and take notice before it has to declare more “state of emergency due to pollution” scenarios, like we witnessed in 2016. India is a country with enormous elemental abundance, which can easily be harnessed to create clean, efficient, economical energy. So where do we stand versus China in this matter?

  • In China installed wind capacity has crossed 129 GW in India installed wind capacity is approximately 23.4 GW
  • Installed solar capacity is over 43 GW in China; in India installed solar capacity is just about 5 GW
  • China is aiming for 150 GW of solar and 200 GW of wind by 2020; India’s target for 2022 is 100 GW of solar and 60 GW of wind.

The National Energy Administration is planning a massive investment in renewable energy that are cleaner, greener, and more efficient – and has committed a stupendous investment of 2.5 trillion yuan to make China’s free of its dependency on fossil fuels by 2020. India is not all that far behind as one of the top ten investors in renewable sources of energy worldwide, but it have an uphill task ahead of her.

Given that India and China’s population counts are running neck-to-neck, and clean energy has a direct impact on climate change issues such as the monsoon rain that India is so dependent on. India needs to speed up its game before it literally choke itself.

Let’s take a look at why this is the case: China has focused its energy on making renewable energy more cost efficient. The cost of producing a solar plant in China has dropped by a whopping 40 percent since 2010, making China the single largest producer and user of solar power in 2016 worldwide. An efficient and good quality solar power plant in India currently costs approximately 6.5-8 crore rupees (source: Central Electricity Regulation Commission) PER MEGAWATT to set up – a costly proposition for the average Indian to consider. This does not include the cost of land – you require which is anywhere from 7-10 acres minimum. Nor does it include the cost of operations, maintenance or staff.

However, organizations such as GERMI (Gujarat Energy and Research and Management Institute) have been conducting experiments in the last couple of years to create cheaper solar cells that would bring the cost down to approximately 3.5-4 crore, making it a more viable proposition for people to consider. There are other gaping holes in the system and the main one seems to be an impractical grid distribution practices.

According to Energypost.eu: “Most Indian distribution companies are wholly-owned by the respective state governments and prefer not to increase electricity access or improve reliability as their ability to increase tariffs to recover the incremental costs is limited. In addition, limited inter-state trading of generation resources—a legacy of the vertically-integrated state-government utilities—has created a major barrier to the growth of renewable energy. Some regions regularly experience strong surges of wind or solar output, but then curtail that clean, low-cost energy due to a lack of inter-state trading and the flexibility that trading enables. Like China, one source of inflexibility is insufficient emphasis on a merit-order approach to system operations.” It seems like the hindrance is more bureaucratic in nature than a lack of available natural resources.

It’s also interesting to note that in the wake of the Fukushima nuclear disaster, India is stilling upping its nuclear power plant capacity, while China is moving away from it and shifting its focus in a noticeable manner towards more solar, wind, hydro, tidal and geothermal power sources. With India’s immense coastlines and abundant sunshine, it seems incredible that it hasn’t been able to catch up with China and beat it hollow in the renewable energy game. However, both countries are struggling with “merit systems” that still seem to give priority to coal-powered power. It will take a massive shift in both policy and thinking at a national administrative level before renewables become the energy of choice, over fossil fuels.

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