Dubai: Developing countries with growing power demand are joining the quest for clean and green energy. They are now taking greater interest in renewable energy sources — wind and solar power — as well as nuclear energy.
According to the United Nations Environment Programme, new investment in renewable energy for the Middle East and Africa region in 2010 grew 104 per cent to $5 billion (Dh18.3 billion). The report said that though the potential for renewable energy in the Middle East is clear, the key challenges are the high costs and the lack of legislation.
“Renewable energy has the inherent advantage of greater resource flexibility of a distributed energy system, but is also currently more costly than centralised power. Hence, there is continuous need to innovate to increase efficiencies and bring down costs.”Share on facebookTweet this
In an interview, Dr Farooq Abdullah, Indian Union Minister for New and Renewable Energy, speaks on this important topic that he plans to address at the World Future Energy Summit to be held in Abu Dhabi.
Gulf News: How important is renewable energy and clean technologies to emerging markets, such as India?
Dr Farooq Abdullah: The challenge facing the world today is to meet its increasingly large energy needs while minimising the damage to the environment. This is why, while striving to bridge its energy deficit, the world must necessarily increase the share of clean, sustainable, new and renewable energy sources.
We in India are now on the verge of a second transition as far as renewables are concerned. We have passed through the phase of research, development and small scale deployments and now have an installed base of over 22,000 MW [megawatt] renewable based capacity, which is around 11 per cent of India's total power generation capacity. We have added over 11 GW [gigawatt] capacity in the last five years and plan for another 30 GW in the next five years.
Is it realistic to expect renewable energy to meet the growing needs of these countries in the next 10-15 years?
I am confident that renewable energy is an idea whose time has come. There is a shift from the use of conventional energy to renewable sources of energy. While 10 years may be an ambitious timeframe for a total transformation, the role of renewables will continue to increase.
What are the initiatives that India is undertaking to promote the growth of this sector?
India is perhaps the only country in the world to have an exclusive ministry devoted to the growth and development of renewable energies. We stand among the top five countries of the world in terms of renewable energy capacity. We have an installed base of over 22 GW, which is around 11 per cent of our total power generation capacity and contributes over 5 per cent in the electricity mix. This represents an almost 400 per cent increase in the past 5 years alone.
Our most recent initiative — The Jawaharlal Nehru National Solar Mission (JNNSM) envisages a cap-acity addition of 20,000 MW of grid solar power by 2022. A similar ambitious mission — the National Bio-Energy Mission — aims to tap the over 15 GW bio-energy potential in the country.
What are the areas where you see renewable energy being an easy replacement for traditional sources?
Renewable energy has already created its space in grid-connected power generation. Wind and small hydro are commercially viable options. We are working towards grid-parity in solar. However, what is most amazing is the capacity of decentralised renewable applications to usher in energy access for all including the most disadvantaged and the remotest of our habitations. Thus, it becomes one the biggest drivers of inclusive growth.
How does India's National Solar Mission fare compared to other emerging economies?
Phase 1 of the Solar Mission is now under implementation. Last year, 186 MW of grid-connected solar power projects have been commissioned and another 300 MW are likely to be commissioned by March 2012. We have succeeded in cutting solar-power costs by allotting projects through a tight international auctions.
What are the biggest challenges in the growth of renewable energy in India?
Renewable energy has the inherent advantage of greater resource flexibility of a distributed energy system, but is also currently more costly than centralised power. Hence, there is continuous need to innovate to increase efficiencies and bring down costs.
The challenge is to reduce the per-unit cost of renewable energy. Besides, the power generated through renewable energy is usually intermittent and sometimes difficult to predict. There are also other challenges like those related to technology and financing. Like many other countries, India is meeting these challenges through encouraging economies of scale, easy transfer of technology and indigenous research and development.
I see the role of governments as active facilitators who will work to create an enabling ecosystem for promoting newer business models, technical, as well as market innovations as well as promoting basic and applied research.
India has an established presence in R&D [research and development] in industries such as ICT [information and communication technology]. What contribution can India make to innovation in renewables and clean technology industry?
India has a strong base in R&D in all areas of renewable energy. We see technology-led R&D as a strong area for innovation and growth. For instance, it will help in managing the complexity of variable power generation through computer-enabled power networks, or smart grids. The efficiencies of smart grid management coupled with the sustainability of renewable energy could be a win-win combination.
What are your expectations from your participation at WFES?
The World Future Energy Summit is now a key event in the world sustainable energy calendar. It will provide a unique opportunity for Indian investors, manufacturers and developers to interact with leading lights both from the private and public sectors.
What do you think the Middle East, and in particular Abu Dhabi, offers India in terms of opportunities in renewable energy and energy efficiency?
Renewable energy is the future of mankind and the key to sustainable development. I am delighted to note that the UAE, despite its abundant hydrocarbon resources, has taken the initiative in promoting renewable energy and in hosting the headquarters of the International Renewable Energy Agency (Irena).
We, in India, see tremendous opportunity in cooperation not only via Irena but also at the bilateral level. India shall be happy to leverage its resources to help in capacity building and resource assessment.
Top level politician
Dr. Farooq Abdullah is the Union Minister for New and Renewable Energy in the Government of India. He is best known for his initiative in renewable energy — The Jawahar Lal Nehru National Solar Mission, along with a number of other initiatives in the renewable energy space in India.
Born in 1937 in Soura on the outskirts of Srinagar, Abdullah completed his MBBS at the SMS Medical College, Jaipur. He has served as the Chief Minister of Jammu and Kashmir thrice and a Member of Parliament twice. He has served as a a member of several Parliamentary committees.