India’s 500 GW Non-fossil Energy Target Moved to 2031-32

Prime Minister Narendra Modi had announced 2030 for the target to be achieved


The government has moved the target year to install 500 GW of non-fossil energy capacity to 2031-32 from 2030, Union Minister for Power and New & Renewable Energy R K Singh has informed Parliament.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced India’s commitment to achieving the milestone at the COP26 Summit in Glasgow, Scotland, in November 2021. He had also said India aimed to become a carbon-neutral economy by 2070.

Since then, the Power Minister has consistently maintained that the 2030 target would be reached even before the deadline. He went on record to say that India would have achieved 50% of its power generation capacity from renewable sources in 2023 itself if the country had not lost two years due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The 500 GW target year could have been reset because solar and wind power installations have not been keeping pace with the yearly targets, even while electricity demand has been burgeoning.

For instance, in the first nine months of 2023, India installed 5.6 GW of solar power capacity, a ~47% year-over-year drop from 10.5 GW. Utility-scale solar project installations fell by 54% to 4.2 GW, a 54% YoY decline, according to Mercom India’s Q3 2023 India Solar Market Update.

To accelerate the commissioning of solar projects, the Ministry of New and Renewable Energy suspended the implementation of the Approved List of Models and Manufacturers mandate until the end of March 31, 2024. The suspension of the ALMM was to facilitate developers importing solar modules and commissioning their projects without delays.

However, coal-based thermal power is getting a push. In replies to two separate questions, Singh said the Central Electricity Authority had carried out generation planning studies in the context of the stressed scenario. To meet the country’s base load requirement by 2032, the government has assessed the coal and lignite-based installed capacity to be 283 GW against the present installed capacity of 214 GW.

“Considering this, the Government of India proposes to set up an additional minimum of 80 GW coal-based capacity by 2031-32. Currently, 26,380 MW of thermal capacity is under construction, 11,960 MW has been bid out, and 19,050 MW is under clearance,” the minister said.

In furtherance of the coal push, the CEA has advised thermal power utilities not to retire or repurpose coal-based power stations of more than 200 MW capacity before 2030 to ensure the availability of power.

In the last three years, 19 coal-based thermal power plants with a total capacity of 2.3 GW were retired.

Last December, India refused to endorse a pledge signed by over 118 countries at the COP28 Summit in Dubai to triple renewable energy capacity by 2030. Doing so would have meant committing to a deal on phasing down coal.

In the run-up to COP28, Singh had said, “There is going to be pressure on nations at COP to reduce the usage of coal. We are not going to do this since our point of view is clear that we are not going to compromise on the availability of power for our growth, even if it requires that we add coal-based capacity.”

India has been witnessing a sharp increase in power demand in the last few years. Last year, the CEA forecast an all-India peak power demand of 256.53 GW in the financial year (FY) 2024-25, rising sharply from FY 2023-24. Power demand will likely soar above 256 GW in September 2024, the CEA said.