31 May 2010

Unleashing the Wind Tiger

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India has featured as one of the world's top five countries for wind power development for years. Will new policy initiatives open up India's wind sector?

Until China's wind sector started its turbocharged acceleration three or four years ago, India had been the clear leader in wind in Asia and amongst developing countries. A wind pioneer, year after year it has ranked in the top five nations in terms of new installations. India added a respectable 1576 MW during the financial year ending 31 March 2010 (compared with 1917 MW added in Germany and 2459 MW in Spain), bringing total wind capacity to 11,758.43 MW. It is currently in fifth place globally in terms of total installed capacity. The leading state is Tamil Nadu, in the south, which boasts an outstanding level of resource and currently yields about half of India's wind production (see Tables 1 and 2 below), as well as dominating new installations.

India's current (11th) Five-Year Economic Plan ends in March 2012, and includes a target of 9000 MW of new wind installations. India's Minister for New and Renewable Energy, Dr Farooq Abdullah, told the Lok Sabha (elected house) that 3847 MW had been installed between the launch of the Plan and end of January 2010. Market analysts predict cumulative capacity in the region of 24–25.5 GW by 2013 (BTM, March 2009) or 2015 (MAKE, March 2010).

India has long had a vision for wind power, and indeed for other renewables. In 1982 the government created a Department for Non-conventional Energy Sources (DNES, given Ministry status in 1992 to become the MNES). Back before carbon-counting, India identified wind power as a means of increasing and securing its electricity supply to a rapidly growing, industrializing nation.

In 1985, the DNES initiated a national programme for the development of wind power. The first demonstration projects were built in the late 1980s, joined by the first private sector projects in the 1990s. By 1998, 968 MW had been installed across India, 917 MW of which were put up by the private sector. These machines were in the 200–500 kW range and the developments were largely made possible by finance from IREDA, the Indian Renewable Energy Development Agency. A reduction in tax benefits was followed by a slowdown in developments after 1998. It was a revival of tax-based incentives that saw the sector rebound.

Prior to 2003 India's electric power sector – generation and transmission/distribution – was in the hands of the state electricity boards. The 2003 Electricity Act set in motion reforms that have unbundled generation, transmission and distribution in many states, as well as creating Electricity Regulatory Commissions at both state and national levels. With increasing industrialization and a growing population, the country has been facing large outages due to shortfall in power production. India's 11th five-year plan aims to add 78.7 GW of new power generation capacity by 2012 – though in November 2009 minister for power Sushilkumar Shinde warned that India was likely to add only 78% of the 14.5 GW power capacity targeted for 2009–2010. One technology that has exceeded, rather than fallen short of its targets, is wind power. It makes sense that given different incentives, it could deliver much more and become a real contributor to India's energy mix.

(Renewable Energy World)

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