IKI Talks with Arun Tripathi and Markus Wypior

Dr. Arun Tripathi and Markus Wypior

Dr. Arun Tripathi and Markus Wypior

Through the Indo-German Energy Forum (IGEF) the International Climate Initiative (IKI) is supporting bilateral cooperation between India and Germany in the area of energy policy since 2012. The following interview with Dr Arun Tripathi, Director at India's Ministry of New and Renewable Energy, and Markus Wypior, Head of the IGEF Support Office, was conducted during a study visit to Germany by an Indian delegation to look at the role played by solar energy in distribution grids.


Following the elections in India, how is Indian energy policy structured in Narendra Modi's new cabinet?

Tripathi: After the Indian general election of 2014 a common minister now integrates the Ministry of Coal, Ministry of Power and MNRE. This will allow scarce resources to be utilised more efficiently and increase the share of renewable energies, which then reduces the risk of shortages in the Indian electricity supply. At the moment renewable energies account for up to 13.5 per cent in the electricity grid. By 2017 this share is scheduled to grow to 15 per cent and by 2030 to 20 per cent. In the solar energy sector, concentrating on photovoltaic and thermal energy technologies, our national mission aims at 20,000 megawatts of installed capacity in 2022 by adding 2,000 megawatts each year to the Indian grid. Our Prime Minister Mr Modi supports these targets and is especially keen when it comes to innovative approaches.

What are the German impressions regarding the Indian renewable energy sector?

Wypior: From my perspective the developments are highly positive. In the 1980s, having one specialised ministry to incentivise and roll out new technologies was very helpful. Bringing renewables as well as conventional energies back under the responsibility of a common energy minister can be seen as a sign of maturity. Renewables are thus becoming mainstream in Indian politics.

Tripathi: I totally agree and would like to add another thought. The large-scale integration of renewables into the Indian electricity grid currently represents our major challenge for upcoming years. Since the Ministry of Power is responsible for grid management and MNRE remains in charge of fostering renewables, a common minister will allow closer coordination between these departments. The Ministry of Environment and Forests (MoEF) deals with environmental degradation problems and represents another key department working closely with us.

How is climate change perceived in India these days?

Tripathi: Climate change ranks as a priority issue on the Indian agenda. All upcoming projects require, for instance, an environmental clearance in order to be granted. India accordingly makes strong efforts to ensure environmental protection through energy efficiency measures, extending the use of renewable energy and guaranteeing sustainable agriculture. We have therefore launched eight National Missions in the framework of the National Action Plan on Climate Change, including the solar mission targets.

Would a sharp increase in the solar energy share face resistance in India?

Tripathi: When we started our solar mission in 2010 the share of photovoltaic and thermal solar energy was equal. In view of the technological benefits of the former technology and the opportunities it offers in terms of commercialisation, the Indian government has constantly increased the share of photovoltaic systems, which are now approaching a critical level in the national grid. By 2017 we had planned to reach grid parity, where solar energy generates electricity at equal costs compared to conventional energy prices. Looking at the bidding prices for solar power and comparing them with consumer paying rates for conventional energy, it seems as if this state will already be achieved in 2015. This process gives us cause for a lot of hope.

Wypior: There are many large projects in the pipeline that will further contribute to reaching grid parity. The four gigawatt solar energy power plant project in Rajasthan serves as one example among others.

Where can both countries, India and Germany, learn from each other?

Tripathi: Our partner country has already succeeded in installing 36 gigawatts of renewable energy. For this reason India can apparently learn a lot from Germany in reaching its 20,000 megawatt goal. In India the federal states regulate tariffs and other relevant energy policies. Right now we need to bring these activities in line with our challenges on the national level in terms of grid management. The private sector also plays a key role. Representatives of electricity companies are taking part in our study visit here in Germany. Through GIZ and IGEF the German government helps India in formulating state policies in Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh or Chhattisgarh. These states are serving as role models for other territories.

Wypior: The questions that have been raised at the workshop this morning by Indian participants underpin our overwhelming perception. Comparing the discussions in both countries, the questions raised in Germany are almost identical when it comes to the integration of renewables into the grid. Addressing current challenges accordingly demands a mutual approach between both countries on finding solutions. While Germany achieved a lot of costly progress in the past, India has huge potentials in the renewable energy sector and the opportunity to avoid technical problems right from the beginning. A constant exchange of ideas is thus important to unlock benefits for both countries.