India’s ambitious renewable energy target needs area as big as Himachal or Chhattisgarh!

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Published: January 17, 2020 8:38:43 PM

Prime Minister Narendra Modi made a pledge to increase India's renewable energy target to 450 GW by 2022 to reduce the country's dependency on fossil fuel for energy and to combat climate change.

India has made the ambitious commitment to increase renewable energy production to 175 GW by 2022. (Reuters)

India needs a total land footprint roughly the size of Himachal Pradesh or Chhattisgarh to achieve its ambitious target of 175 giga watts (GW) renewable energy by 2022, according to a latest research. “Total land footprint needed to meet India’s renewable energy target is large, ranging from approximately 55,000 to 125,000 square km or areas, roughly the size of Himachal Pradesh or Chhattisgarh, respectively,” the research, titled ‘Renewable Energy and Land Use in India: A Vision to Facilitate Sustainable Development’, stated. It has been conducted by environmental think tanks working closely with the government – The Nature Conservancy and the Center for Study of Science, Technology and Policy (CSTEP). If renewable energy development proceeds with the singular aim of maximising resource potential, approximately 6700–11,900 sq km of forest land and 24,100–55,700 sq km of agricultural land could be impacted at various scales, it said. “These losses could cause environmental and social conflicts, jeopardise financial investment, and in turn slow the expansion of renewable energy in the country. “The Nature Conservancy analyses also show that there is ample opportunity (more than 10 times what is needed) to achieve India’s solar and wind goals on converted lands, which are likely to have lower biodiversity or agricultural values,” it said.

According to the research findings, 27 per cent of India’s 329 million hectares are classified as wasteland, which is enough for renewable goals deployment. The research demonstrates that it is possible for India to meet the renewable energy target of 175 GW by 2022 by placing renewable energy infrastructure on already degraded lands that have lower potential conflict. “This is a significant opportunity as our country scales up renewable energy production and may lead to faster renewable energy project implementation, lower project costs, and increased energy access,” it said. India has made the ambitious commitment to increase renewable energy production to 175 GW by 2022. The researchers said that one of the biggest obstacles in achieving this target is acquiring land for establishing infrastructure for renewable energy. At the UN Climate Action Summit in New York on September 23 last year, Prime Minister Narendra Modi made a pledge to increase India’s renewable energy target to 450 GW by 2022 to reduce the country’s dependency on fossil fuel for energy and to combat climate change.

The study said developing energy projects on lands already degraded by human activities rather than placing new infrastructure within natural habitats or areas of high agricultural production would reduce the cumulative impacts on land and minimise land-use conflicts. “The good news is that India’s already degraded lands have the potential to generate more than 10 times our 2022 renewable energy target. “Targeting renewable energy to already degraded areas with lower potential conflicts will not only help India achieve clean energy targets but also maintain food security and protect biodiversity,” it said.

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