Telangana focuses on clean energy to enhance its power supply

  • Since its formation in 2014, when it was a power deficit state, Telangana has come a long way in the last seven years and has now become a power surplus state. 
  • The state now has about 4.4 gigawatts of installed capacity of renewable power, which accounts for about 25 percent of the state’s total installed capacity. 
  • The state is exploring different models including a hybrid solar-wind model to ensure that erratic climatic conditions are not able to disturb the energy supply.

Sandeep Acharya, a 23-year-old college student from Pargi, a small hilly city in Vikarabad district of Telangana, is a witness to the state’s focus on clean energy and its impact on the lives of the local people. The transition to clean sources of energy, wind in particular, is fulfilling the energy needs of the people, without forcing them to breathe polluted air, as is the case in places where coal-based power plants are the main source of electricity.

Pargi, which is marked by hills, had windmills were installed in the area around three years ago.

“Earlier there was erratic power supply in our area. So many activities, including farming or some small scale industries used to suffer because of this. But since the time these windmills have come up, the power scenario has undergone a transition. Now, there is 24 hours power supply without a break,” Acharya told Mongabay-India while standing near one of the many windmills. The wind turbine towers are installed at a distance of around 200-300 metres away from each other. Acharya also pointed towards a nearby water filtering plant which, he said, runs on wind power.

A windmill tower in Pargi. The state produces 128MW of wind energy through these windmills. Photo by Manish Kumar.

Pargi is about 90 kilometres away from the state’s capital city of Hyderabad and is among the two places where the state has installed wind power systems. Telangana’s total installed capacity from wind power is 128 megawatts (MW) including 100 MW from Pargi windmills and 28 MW from windmills on the Hyderabad-Mumbai highway near Zaheerabad.

Other than the windmills, Pargi also uses solar energy. Its bus station for example runs on the power supplied by a rooftop solar system. The small city is an example of how Telangana is steadily changing its energy mix while trying to fulfil its energy needs.

According to the latest data from the Central Electricity Authority (CEA), Telangana is ranked eighth in India in terms of total installed capacity of renewable energy with 4,430 MW, which is nearly 25 percent of its total installed capacity of 17,270 MW.

Telangana’s journey to being a power-surplus state

When Telangana was carved out of Andhra Pradesh in 2014, it was a power-deficit state. However, over the last seven years, the state has taken a series of measures to change the situation and boost energy production.

The state government had announced its Solar Policy in 2015 and ensured a single-window clearance system for such projects. It was followed by the wind energy policy in 2016.

Telangana’s State Information Technology and Industries Secretary Jayesh Ranjan, during a recent event in Hyderabad, claimed how the industries were earlier forced to shut down for days due to lack of energy. According to the Socio Economic Outlook of Telangana, 2021, at the time of the formation of the state, there was a peak power demand shortage of 2,700 MW. However, within a few years, the state turned things around and by 2019-20 end, it turned into a power surplus state.

The change, however, is not entirely due to renewable power and is a result of a boost from the thermal power plants as well.

“We have around 4.4 gigawatts (GW) installed capacity of renewable energy. We aim to have a total installed capacity of 6 GW of renewable energy by the end of 2022-23. This has only been possible due to the policy boost by the state government. We are now doing well on the rooftop solar front as it accounts for 200 MW capacity,” G.S.V. Prasad, General Manager (GM) of the Telangana State Renewable Energy Development Corporation (TSREDCO), told Mongabay-India.

The state has about 3.9 GW of solar power which accounts for the majority of its 4.4 GW installed capacity. Recounting the journey, Prasad explained that they first “assessed the demand and potential” across the state before issuing tenders to “increase the share of clean energy in the state.”

“We often tried to use the existing infrastructure rather than creating new ones to reduce the expenses,” he said.

In terms of investments, several private and government players have invested in solar energy and are also exploring new possibilities to boost clean energy. For instance, the National Thermal Power Corporation (NTPC) is trying to develop a floating solar power plant of 100 MW at Ramagundam.

The state also tried to change the poor adoption of rooftop solar power. According to officials of the Greater Hyderabad Municipal Corporation (GHMC), there were hardly any rooftop solar panel consumers in Hyderabad in 2014 but now it has around 9,500 such consumers. The GHMC officials also claim that the corporation would soon be able to earn profits from the rooftop solar panels installed on its offices.

A senior official from the GHMC, while requesting anonymity, told Mongabay-India that “there are 34 GHMC buildings where rooftop solar systems have been installed with an investment of Rs. 3.4 crore (Rs. 34 million). In the next two years, we are going to recover this investment through energy-saving and after that whatever we produce through solar energy will be a profit for us.”

Read more: Telangana’s public transport system steadily moving to clean power

Challenges to the clean fuel regime

Though Telangana is pushing for faster adoption of clean energy, the officials of the state government admitted that they are aware of the limitations and thus they are carefully pursuing the energy transition path.

“In Telangana, the estimated potential from wind energy is close to 4.2 GW but the installed capacity is only 128 MW so far. Moreover, the acquisition of land for such projects is also a challenge as there is a dearth of government-owned land or affordable land,” an official from the state’s energy department told Mongabay-India while requesting anonymity.

Solar rooftop on the Pargi bus station. Photo by Manish Kumar.

He also noted that erratic wind flow is another area of concern before they invest heavily in wind power. Thus the state is contemplating a hybrid model of solar and wind power – something that the Indian government is also promoting.

NITI Aayog, the Indian government’s federal think tank, in one of its publications Turning Around the Power Distribution Sector also batted for such a model. “In order to increase the firmness of renewable energy, reduce their power procurement cost, and handle this variety of power sources, discoms can deploy large-scale energy storage or use hybrid projects such as solar/wind,” it had recommended.

The TSREDCO officials also said that a 100 percent shift to clean energy cannot be a reality in near future due to limitations of clean energy operations as many of them are dependent on the local climate.

Meanwhile, D. Chandrasekharam, a former visiting professor from the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT), Hyderabad said that it is a flawed assumption that solar energy is clean and reduces carbon emissions.

“In the race of boosting renewable energy, solar energy is being given much prominence in Telangana and even by other Indian states. But the fact is that in the process of manufacturing solar photovoltaic panels, a good amount of carbon emissions are involved. This is when there is immense potential in geothermal energy in Telangana which is a much cleaner form of energy. That could be tapped if the search is for clean energy and the aim is to reduce carbon emissions,” Chandrasekharam, who is currently a TUBITAK Fellow at the Izmir Institute of Technology, Turkey, told Mongabay-India.

He also said that while many developed countries used geothermal energy in boosting their clean energy basket, there is a lack of interest in Indian states towards this.

In 2019, Chandrasekharam had published a paper where he argued that a single solar PV cell emits 3312×106 Kg of carbon dioxide  during its lifecycle.


Banner Image: A landscape view of Pargi showing parts of the windmill towers. Photo by Manish Kumar.

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