Guwahati News Desk: Renewable Energy (RE) has earned a huge focus and momentum throughout the years across the world even in India due to the rising fuel prices, threats to energy security, and the need to manage economic growth with pragmatic consideration of climate change.
Knowing and understanding the importance of renewable energy has become an ultimate solution to the increasing energy demands challenges.
On the other hand, the Ministry of New and Renewable Energy of the Government of India has launched the Jawaharlal Nehru National Solar Mission (NSM) to promote grid-connected and off-grid solar energy which aimed to deploy 175 gigawatts (GW) of renewable energy by 2022.
Its importance made India today, closer to this target at 94.4 GW installed renewable energy capacity as of March 31, 2021.
While India has taken swift strides especially in the RE space, India still faces a 0.4% overall energy deficit. It is interesting to note that North East India has the highest energy supply deficit at 4.3% and within North East Region, Assam has the highest energy deficit with 45 million units unmet energy supply.
Assam, the State known for its all-year-round greenery and bio-rich diversity is home to numerous species of mammals, including rare and endangered species like the great Indian one-horned rhinoceros, the royal Bengal tiger, among others.
Assam is also the largest economic hub across the northeast region with a population of over 3.12 Crore, the State has seen a significant increase in power demand in recent years. Assam was the first site in Asia for oil drilling, which made a significant contribution to the State’s growth.
However, with global trends shifting from fossil fuels to RE sources, Assam to has embraced a move towards creating a sustainable ecosystem. In 2016, Assam published a State vision document – called ‘Assam 2030: Our Dream, Our Commitment’.
Assam was the first Indian State to formally adopt Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) through this document. The vision document outlines the basic tenets on which the State of Assam is to proceed on its Sustainable Development journey. The Assam 2030 vision seeks to achieve Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) by creating a Secure, Developed, and Great Assam, while focusing on areas of critical importance such as People, Planet, Prosperity, Peace, and Partnership.
Renewable energy has played a massive role in achieving the sustainable development goals that have been outlined in the vision document. The Ministry of New and Renewable Energy has set a target for Assam to generate 688 megawatts (MW) of renewable energy by 2022. Almost 96 per cent, i.e. 663 MW of this target is to be met through solar energy and the remaining 25 MW through smaller hydro power projects. The States’ electricity regulatory commission has also set a Renewable Purchase Obligation target of 8% of all electricity generated to be fulfilled through solar energy by 2022.
With an installed capacity of 1794 MW in Assam, energy needs for the State are predominately met by thermal and gas with approximately 66% of its energy portfolio followed by hydro projects at over 500 MW. Renewable energy installed capacity, excluding large hydro, is a mere 4% of the total energy portfolio at 79 MW as of 31, March 21.
The current RE capacity might be at 4%, Assam has seen some movement of solar tenders in the last few years. In fact, Assam was the first North East State to come out with the largest solar power tender in the region, a 100 MW solar tender back in 2018. Few other solar tenders were floated in the following years, clearly demonstrating its focus on the tapping RE sector. Assam has about 175 MW of solar projects under development as of December 2020, according to Mercom’s India.
Assam envisions a future where everyone in the State can have access to affordable, reliable, and sustainable modern energy solutions and help the people lead healthy and prosperous lives with minimal impact on the environment. In line with this objective, Azure Power, a dedicated solar power company with a journey spanning over a decade and the first private utility solar power company in India to develop a solar plant in 2009, is building its first solar power plant in the State of Assam.
In 2018, the company, through a competitive bidding process, had won a 90 MW project, the largest solar power project in the North-Eastern region. Under the agreement, the company will supply power to Assam Power Distribution Company Limited (APDCL) at a weighted average tariff of INR 3.34 per [SS1]kWh for 25 years, thereby making it extremely competitive and affordable. The sustainable and environment-friendly project is expected to be fully commissioned by 2021 thereby helping the State on its quest to meet its sustainable energy commitments.
With rapid advancements in technology, leading to reduce renewable technology costs and dropping solar tariffs, a switch to clean energy not only makes environmental sense but also strong economic sense.
Today, solar is the cheapest source of energy in India. To further this vision, it is important to create an enabling environment for businesses and developers to participate and invest towards capacity expansion for solar power.
Renewable and clean energy will not only help drive investments in the State but also help address the increasing power needs in a sustainable manner besides creating local employment opportunities and having a positive ripple impact on the State’s economy.
The need of the hour is for the government and society to come together and encourage players in the renewable energy space to further enhance their footprint and investments in the State, thereby enabling Assam to reach its true economic potential, sustainably.