With a total installed capacity of 12.3 gigawatts (GW), as of March 2018, Karnataka has emerged as the leading state for renewable energy in India this year.
According to a report by the Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis (IEEFA), the state generates 27% of its power from renewable energy. In fact, The Hindu reports that the state has added 5 Gigawatts in 2017-2018 alone.
The report stated that Karnataka has been building its wind energy capacity steadily over the past decade and has moved ahead of Tamil Nadu, thanks to a scaling up of solar capacity in 2017-2018. This can be attributed to the installation of more than 4 GW of photovoltaic generation.
As of now, it has 5 GW of solar capacity, and 4.7 GW of wind capacity. The remainder of its renewable portfolio (2.6 GW), includes small hydro, biomass, heat and power cogeneration.
The second largest solar development globally, and currently under construction, the Pavagada Industrial Solar Park, is why Karnataka’s renewable energy fortunes have increased.
Other steps include positive renewable energy policies such as open access, the introduction of a hybrid wind-solar development policy and steps to reverse Karnataka’s historic reliance on energy imports.
The report mentions that lack of transmission network infrastructure and policies like the repealing of the zero-wheeling charge order are threats to solar energy in Karnataka.
According to P Ravi Kumar, Principal Secretary, Energy Department, Karnataka had successfully managed to generate 80% of its power through renewable energy sources. He said that Karnataka has 5,203 MW of solar power, 4,900 MW of wind energy and 850 MW from mini-hydel projects, besides power from co-generation. He spoke of plans of scaling up generation through renewable energy.
He also explained how renewable energy is cyclical as during the monsoon season we would have adequate wind energy, and how after October, we may have to rely on solar power. Mr Kumar also commented on the threats in the report, saying that there were constraints, but a green energy corridor was being set up.
The IEEFA has presented a model for Karnataka’s electricity supply and demand for the decade, up to 2027-2028. Here’s what the model predicts:
1. A doubling of economic activity in the coming decade, with steady 7.8% GDP growth that will drive a cumulative 73% in electricity demand.
2. A recommendation of scaling up renewables from 46% of state capacity (27% of generation), in 2017-2018 to around 60% of capacity (43% of generation).
3. A need to better incorporate more flexible peaking capacity for thermal power, which currently totals 38% of capacity and 49% of generation.
So how did the sudden rise in renewable energy in Karnataka come about?
The report mentions that it is the financial troubles for the coal power sector that is operating at an economically unviable capacity factor of just 35%. Coal is unreliable, and the report termed Karnataka’s coal-fired power plants as “potentially stranded assets that impose additional risk on the distribution companies, the banks and the overall Karnataka economy”.
The report ends on a positive note, crediting the success of Karnataka’s renewable energy to its prudent energy policies. However, it also mentions that the state has a long way to go, and must ensure optimum utilisation of its current capacity by building more interstate generation and transmission capacities.
Edited by:-Gayatri Mishra.