World Environment Day: Harnessing the sun to pave way to a cleaner tomorrow

World Environment Day, celebrated on 5th June every year is a day dedicated by the United Nations to encourage worldwide awareness and action for the protection of our environment. This year, the theme is Ecosystem Restoration.

Globally, the day is gaining prominence given the growing concern over environment and climate change. While leaders around the world are collaborating on how the issue of climate change can be addressed effectively, the society especially the youth are also lending their voice to this cause. Lowering carbon emissions through increasing share of renewable energy is one of the key focus areas and common target for achieving sustainable development by multiple countries.

With a rapid reduction in cost of renewable technology as well as its significant environmental benefit, renewable energy has today become the single largest driver to help reduce carbon emission and achieve sustainable development. And within renewable energy, solar power is gaining prominence given that it is the cleanest, cheapest and the most abundantly available source of energy today. Countries like China, United States, Japan and Germany have made rapid strides in solar technology and today are the largest adopters of solar energy in the world. India is steadily strengthening its presence in this space as well.

The potential of solar energy was recognized a decade ago in India. Government of India launched the Jawaharlal Nehru National Solar Mission (JNNSM) on January 2010, as a part of one of the eight missions under the National Action Plan on Climate Change (NAPCC–2008). With increasing pressure of climate change and as a responsible developing country, India has given a massive push towards solar energy generation in the last decade.

Solar energy has seen an unprecedented industry growth in the country within in a very short period of time. India witnessed its first private utility scale solar plant in 2009, a 2 MW plant developed by Azure Power in a small village in Awan, Punjab, providing electricity to 32 villages with over 20,000 people. As per the Ministry of New and Renewable Energy, in 2010, the total installed solar energy capacity in the country stood at a mere 11 megawatts, while just over a decade later, as of April 2021, the total installed solar capacity stands 40 gigawatts. Today, India has rapidly scaled up its solar power infrastructure to become the third largest solar capacity country in the world and has set an ambitious target of 300 GW of solar capacity by 2030.

Solar energy is seen as a viable energy source, not just as an alternative to conventional grid power which is largely fed by thermal power currently but also to other renewable sources. As per the Ministry of New and Renewable Energy, Karnataka is the largest state for solar power production in India followed by Rajasthan, Tamil Nadu, Gujarat Andhra Pradesh and Telangana. Even the North Eastern State of Assam is focusing on harnessing solar energy to meet its fast-expanding energy requirements. It has the potential of generating 13,760 MW of solar energy, followed by biomass with 279 MW, wind energy with 246 MW and small hydro projects with 202 MW capacities.

India aims to become self-reliant for its energy needs which is expected to reach 15,820 TWH by 2040 by extensively harnessing the potential of renewable energy. As per the latest International Energy Agency (IEA) report ‘India Energy Outlook 2021’ as it stands currently, solar accounts for less than 4 percent of India’s electricity generation, and coal close to 70 percent. It predicts that both these sources of power will converge in the low 30 percent by 2040. As per the report this dramatic turnaround will primarily be driven by India’s policy ambitions, notably the target to reach 450 GW of renewable capacity by 2030, and the extraordinary cost‐competitiveness of solar, which out‐competes existing coal‐fired power even when paired with battery storage.

While the country is taking swift strides in the solar space through policy reforms, this World Environment Day, we urge more people to adopt Solar Energy wherever and whenever possible. To mark this occasion, on World Environment Day, Azure Power, as a responsible corporate is planting 1000+ trees to promote a clean and healthy environment. We would like to highlight that Solar Energy not only generate clean power and makes economic sense but also contributes towards a sustainable and healthy future. A sustainable future for generations to come can only be possible with the active participation of the Government as well as society and adoption of solar energy is a key step in that direction.

(The article is solely the opinion of the author)

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