Major India Utility Plans Massive Increase in Renewable Energy

The chief executive of major India electricity producer Tata Power said his company is prepared to make major investments in renewable energy, primarily solar and also wind power, as the group looks to increase its clean energy portfolio from its present 4 GW to 25 GW by 2030.

Praveer Sinha, Tata Power’s CEO and managing director, told Nikkei Asia that “for a country like India, renewable is very good source” for power production. He said India’s sunny climate provides the country with “huge potential” for solar power, “so for us, this is a very important opportunity to leverage and see how we can increase our generation through renewable sources.”

Sinha told the news service that Tata could provide “excellent 24/7 renewable solutions” via solar, wind, and other clean energy sources. Tata Power, part of Tata Group, India’s largest conglomerate, has said it would like to add 2 GW of new renewable generation annually over the next decade. Renewable energy today makes up about 30% of the company’s generation.

Tata Power’s generation fleet includes both thermal and renewable energy. The company also invests in power transmission and distribution, along with direct-to-consumer businesses including rooftop solar and charging stations for electric vehicles (EVs).

Orders for Solar Power

Tata Power on Oct. 12 announced its solar power division had received orders worth $71.7 million from the state-run Energy Efficiency Services to build 100 MW of solar projects. s through a combination of solar, wind and other power sources, offering a range of services to customers.

Narendra Modi, India’s prime minister, has made cleaner energy part of his government’s platform. Modi’s government in August said total installed renewable power generation capacity in India had surpassed 100 GW, as it works to meet a target of 450 GW of installed renewable capacity by 2030. India also has a goal of having EVs comprise at least 30% of the country’s vehicle fleet by 2030.

India’s Ministry of New and Renewable Energy in 2019 launched a PM-KUSUM initiative that includes three components: setting up at least 10 GW of decentralized, grid-connected renewable generation capacity on barren or un-farmed land in the country, including areas where crops could be grown alongside solar arrays. A second component calls for installing standalone solar-power pumps to serve the agriculture industry. The third measure is to enable grid-connected agriculture pumps to be powered by solar energy.

In total, the PM-KUSUM plan is designed to provide clean energy to more than 3.5 million farmers who would be able to convert their irrigation pumps to run on solar power. Government data shows that diesel-powered irrigation pumps in India use more than 5.5 billion liters of fuel annually, and emit 15.4 million tons of carbon dioxide. The data shows that grid-connected pumps account for about 18% of India’s total power consumption.

Converting Agriculture Pumps to Solar

Sinha told Nikkei Asia the PM-KUSUM initiative could convert about  4 million of the country’s 9 million diesel-powered pumps to solar power. “The rest will still continue to be on diesel,” he said. “So, there is an opportunity to scale those 5 million [pumps], and then [convert] all the 30 million to solar. It’s a win-win for everyone and a fantastic solution if it can be implemented right across the country.”

A goal of the plan is to enable farmers not only to power their pumps with solar, but to also have the opportunity to use solar energy, independent of the power grid, for all their operations.

Sinha also said Tata Power has installed about 1,000 EV charging stations in 170 cities. The company is considered the largest provider of EV-charging infrastructure in India. Sinha said, “Basically, what we are doing is we are creating the EV infrastructure” in the country, noting Tata also is enabling charging “for fleet owners like Uber and Ola.”

The company’s EV-charging infrastructure efforts align with Tata Motors, also part of Tata Group, as the automaker expands its fleet of EVs. Tata Motors, which owns Jaguar Land Rover, the British luxury brand, last week said TPG’s Rise Climate Fund, along with Abu Dhabi-based ADQ, plan to invest 75 billion rupees with the automaker, equating to an equity valuation of as much as $9.1 billion.

Tata Motors in a statement announcing the investment said, “Over the next five years, this [new] company will create a portfolio of 10 EVs and, in association with Tata Power Ltd., catalyze the creation of a widespread charging infrastructure to facilitate rapid EV adoption in India.”

Darrell Proctor is a senior associate editor for POWER (@POWERmagazine).

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