West Bengal's progress in clean electricity generation has been slower than other states, as it harnessed just 8 per cent of its renewable energy potential till February this year, according to a new study.

The eastern state’s share of renewable energy consumption out of the total electricity consumption within West Bengal accounted for just 10 per cent, the joint study by US-based research organisation, Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis (IEEFA) and clean energy think tank, Ember said.

Karnataka and Gujarat, the top performers in 2023, maintained their robust performance in 2024, while eastern states and Chhattisgarh lagged, it said.

“West Bengal has utilised just 8 per cent (approximately 636 MW) of its renewable energy potential (excluding large hydro), as of February, 2024,” the study said.

"Despite the slow progress, the state has significant untapped potential for harnessing clean energy, which could be a golden opportunity for West Bengal. By investing in and promoting the development of renewable energy infrastructure, the state can reduce its carbon footprint, create employment opportunities and foster economic growth in the renewable energy sector," it said.

West Bengal, officials said, has taken steps to enhance its renewable energy generation.

In 2023, it invited bids for setting up a 900-MW pumped hydro storage project, in addition to the 900-MW Purulia Pumped Storage Project operated by the West Bengal State Electricity Distribution Company Ltd.

By 2030, the state aims to generate 20 per cent of its electricity from renewable sources, they said.

"While the state waits to add capacity, it can procure more clean electricity from short-term power markets. Our analysis found that only 18 per cent of its total power purchase and captive generation were traded in the short-term electricity market in the fiscal year, 2023. Of this, a mere 0.3 per cent (around 38 million units), is traded in the green day ahead market," IEEFA said.

Another area of opportunity is distributed renewable energy, particularly rooftop solar.

“The state has only approximately 4 per cent (around 80 MW) of its renewable energy installed capacity in the distributed solar energy category. However, officials have identified it as an area of potential growth and have started to invite tenders to “solarise” the rooftops of government buildings,” the report said.

India has recently come up with a scheme to promote rooftop solar that subsidises 60 per cent of the cost.

The report, noted that West Bengal has also adopted progressive policies like the Green Open Access Rules, which eases the process for commercial and industrial consumers to source renewable energy, directly. In addition, the state is taking measures towards the electrification of its transport infrastructure.

“With 318 public charging stations as of February, 2024, and 67,756 total electric vehicle sales as of January, 2024, the West Bengal Government is actively seeking investments in electric vehicle infrastructure,” it said.

Amid West Bengal's journey towards a greener energy landscape, lies the significant challenge of fossil fuel dependency, a hurdle that must be addressed for a successful transition, IEEFA said.

The state's heavy reliance on fossil fuel-fired electricity poses a dual threat, both to its environmental sustainability and its long-term economic resilience, it said.

By embracing a just transition approach, West Bengal can mitigate the environmental impacts of fossil fuel dependency and foster social equity and inclusive economic growth, the report added.