Underlining a commitment to accelerate the Indian economy’s transition to one powered by green energy, Union Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman in her Budget speech on Wednesday mentioned a slew of schemes aimed at promoting clean energy and sustainable living.
She said the Ministry of Petroleum and Natural Gas had earmarked ₹35,000 crore for “priority capital investment”, though neither her speech nor the Budget documents provided more clarity on it.
Following up on the government’s recent announcement of giving a push to ‘green hydrogen’ and promoting renewable energy projects, the Minister said battery energy storage systems with a capacity of 4,000 megawatt hours will be “supported” with viability gap funding to encourage investment.
The Budget also waived customs duty on capital goods and machinery for lithium-ion battery manufacturing. The move is expected to make electric vehicles and storage systems cheaper.
Boost for solar projects
The Ministry of New and Renewable Energy has received a budgetary allocation of ₹10,222 crore, a 45% hike from the ₹7,033 crore it expects to spend in the current financial year. The most significant hikes in the Ministry’s programmes are for ‘off-grid’ solar projects, on which the government is expected to spend ₹61 crore in the current fiscal but has budgeted ₹360 crore for the coming financial year.
India had a target of installing 100 gigawatt (GW) of solar power projects by 2022 but has only installed 63 GW. Off-grid solar projects constitute less than 5% of the target. The allocation for solar power expected to be supplied to the grid has been raised to ₹4,970 crore, up from the ₹3,469 crore expected to be spent by March 2023. The National Green Hydrogen Mission – a ₹19,000-crore programme to produce, use and supply hydrogen from renewable energy sources – has been allotted ₹297 crore.
3 key measures
“For the budget allocation of ₹35,000 crore (about $4 billion) to start catalysing the nearly $30 billion in energy transition finance required annually by India for its net zero future, three types of measures will be needed: risk guarantees to reduce the cost of capital for low-carbon investments in the country; demand aggregation measures as has been done for LED lighting and electric buses; and viability gap financing for hydrogen electrolysers and offshore wind as announced for battery storage,” Ulka Kelkar, director, World Resources Institute, said in a statement.
Ms. Sitharaman also mentioned a ‘green credit’ programme to be notified under the Environment (Protection) Act. “This will incentivise environmentally sustainable and responsive actions by companies, individuals and local bodies, and help mobilise additional resources for such activities,” she said. “Building on India’s success in afforestation, the Mangrove Initiative for Shoreline Habitats and Tangible Incomes (MISHTI) will be taken up for mangrove plantation along the coastline and on salt pan lands,” she added.
An official in the Environment Ministry, who declined to be identified, told The Hindu that such a programme would be “sweeping” and involve multiple Ministries. “It’s still being finalised. However, it will involve several existing schemes that incentivise emission reductions by industries or the growing of plantations in barren land [that become stores of carbon over time].”