India has added 50 gigawatts of renewable energy capacity over the last five years, a major achievement for the country in which two-thirds of its capacity still uses fossil fuels to generate electricity.
As per government data, between March 2015 and December 2019 India added 98 gigawatts of power generation capacity. 52% of this was based on renewable energy technologies dominated by solar power, which saw addition of 30 gigawatts of new projects. Over the last five years, solar power capacity in India has increased 10 times to 33.7 gigawatts as of 31 December 2019.
The wind energy sector saw addition of just over 14 gigawatts of new capacity. While wind energy technology has remained the dominant one in India’s renewable energy sector, it has witnessed a slowdown in new capacity addition due to the government’s shift towards a competitive auction regime in early 2017. With an installed capacity of 37.5 gigawatts at the end of 2019, wind energy could soon lose its position as the leading renewable energy technology in India to solar power.
Power generation capacity based on biomass and biofuel cogeneration more than doubled from 4.4 gigawatts to 9.8 gigawatts during the same period. The growth in capacity from these technologies has, however, slowed down sharply with addition of just a gigawatt of new capacity since March 2018.
Large hydro (more than 25 megawatts) capacity also saw poor capacity addition growth over the last five years. Only 4 gigawatts of new capacity was added during the period. Nuclear power fared even poorly with only a gigawatt of new capacity added.
Fossil fuels (coal, diesel, and gas) witnessed the addition of 42 gigawatts of new capacity over the last five years. Coal was, understandably, the dominant technology, adding 41 gigawatts of net capacity with the retirement of several coal-fired power plants. Less than two gigawatts of gas-fired power capacity could be added, as the industry failed to find any takers for costly power or any meaningful support from government policies. Diesel-fired capacity declined from 1,200 megawatts to 510 megawatts during this period.
In 12 of the 18 quarters ending December 2019, capacity added through renewable energy technologies exceeded that based on fossil fuels. In March 2015, the share of fossil fuels in India’s installed capacity was 69.5% which dropped to 62.6% in December 2019. The share of renewable energy technologies increased from 13.2% to 23.3% during the same period.