As we take on energy transition targets, new insights amplify the need for a course correction for India to achieve 2030 climate goals. The recent G20 ministerial meet in Chennai and reports brought out by Climate Analytics, International Renewable Energy Association (IRENA) and others, call for recalibration, course correction and a collective approach to climate mitigation.

The emphasis is on phasing down fossil fuels and stepping up wind and solar project implementation. Experts are of the view that the world is badly off track in its efforts to reach climate change mitigation goals. In its World Energy Transitions Outlook, IRENA calls for annual renewable power additions of 1,000 GW annually on an average until 2030 to keep 1.5°c climate target within reach.

Climate Analytics’ report, ‘2030 targets aligned to 1.5°c Evidence from the latest global pathways,’ looks into 24 pathways from the IPCC AR6 database that can guide the global energy transition in a sustainable way. It provides five key global targets for this critical decade of action that include, installation of over 1.5 TW/year of new wind and solar capacity by 2030; achieving at least 70 per cent renewables in electricity generation by 2030; cutting fossil fuel production by around 40 per cent by 2030; halving global emissions by 2030, making annual cuts of 8 per cent per year and cutting methane emissions by 34 per cent over the decade and energy sector methane emissions by 66 per cent.

Says Energy Research and Policy Analyst, Climate Analytics, Dr Nandini Das, “To limit warming to 1.5°c, we need to massively accelerate renewables deployment. Our analysis shows that total wind and solar capacity needs to grow five-fold from the 2 TW currently installed to around 10 TW by 2030. Exploding wind and solar development would mean that total renewables deployment more than triples by 2030.”

This view has been endorsed by several organisations including the International Renewable Energy Agency and the IEA. But Dr Das is quick to add that along with increasing renewables in the energy mix, fossil fuel production must also be cut 6 per cent per year across this decade.

Luckily, an ecosystem of renewable energy investment is steadily developing in India. The country is seeing investments in flexible generation sources like battery storage and pumped hydro, the expansion of transmission and distribution networks, modernisation and digitalisation of the grid, domestic manufacturing of inputs like solar modules, solar cells, wafers and electrolysers, and the promotion of more decentralised renewable energy, like rooftop solar.

However, the goal of producing 50 per cent of electricity from non-fossil sources by 2030 necessitates further action. One of the challenges hindering progress is the high cost of debt, which makes India an expensive destination for renewable energy investment.

“Wind and solar generation have been growing fast in India, with over 100 GW installed by 2022, up from only 13 GW in 2010. That’s total wind and solar capacity growing at around 20 per cent annually. This growth rate will need to be sustained and accelerated, which will require greater international support. India is already showing that renewables can be deployed quickly and their plummeting costs will drive even faster deployment,” Dr Das explains.

Fossil fuels

Coal power plants are substantial emitters of harmful pollutants, leading to health issues and escalating socio-economic costs. Unfortunately, these costs are often overlooked when assessing the transition from coal power.

While India confronts a significant unmet energy demand, relying on fossil fuels as an ongoing solution is not viable. Instead, expediting the adoption of renewable energy not only enables the country to achieve energy security at an affordable cost but also brings about various socio-economic advantages. The decreasing tariff on solar electricity should be perceived as an opportunity to reduce coal dependency, and with enhanced grid integration of renewables, these objectives can be realised.

The latest IPCC report highlights the heightened likelihood of future extreme heat events. Consequently, this rising temperature will result in additional electricity demand for cooling. To address this, it is imperative to meet the augmented energy requirement with sustainable energy sources.

“India’s RE capacity (including large hydro) as on March 2023 was 172 GW. If the projections of 485 GW by March 2030 is delivered, India’s total RE capacity will almost triple. India annual RE additions in the last FY was 15 GW, it would need to go close to 45 GW before the end of the decade to meet the 2030 targets,” says Aditya Lolla, Programme Lead Asia, Ember, a global energy think tank.

While India pursues its revised Nationally Determined Contributions targets, it is high time to rejig its near-term strategy for achieving the climate mitigation targets.