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Renewable Energy & Land Use in India

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  • 09 Sep 2021
  • 4 min read

Why in News

Recently, a report named Renewable Energy and Land Use in India by Mid-Century suggested that careful planning today can maximise the benefits and minimise the costs of India’s history-making energy transition.

  • It was released by the Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis (IEEFA) which examines issues related to energy markets, trends and policies.
  • It’s mission is to accelerate the transition to a diverse, sustainable and profitable energy economy.

Key Points

  • Land-Use for Renewables:
    • India will use significant stretches of land by 2050 to install renewable energy generation capacities.
      • Around 50,000-75,000 square kilometres of land will be used in 2050 for solar energy generation and for an additional 15,000-20,000 sq km for wind energy projects.
    • In India, electricity generation has to compete with alternative uses for land such as agriculture, urbanisation, human habitation and nature conservation, unlike Europe or the US.
  • Co-Existence:
    • Properly managed renewable generation can co-exist with other land uses, and, unlike coal-based power, it does not fundamentally change land during use or following its ultimate decommissioning.
  • Carbon Emission:
    • The resulting land cover changes, including indirect effects, will likely cause a net release of carbon up to 50 grams of carbon dioxide per kilowatt-hour (gCO2 / kwh).
    • The amount of carbon release will depend on the region, scale of expansion, solar technology efficiency and land management practices at solar parks.
  • Effect on Ecosystems:
    • Land use for renewable energy may put a pressure on a variety of ecosystems. Generally the terms zero impact areas, barren land, unused land or the official designation of wasteland imply that such areas have no value.
      • Open Natural Ecosystems (ONE), classified as wastelands, covered around 10% of India’s land surface.
      • The largest stretches are found in Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Andhra Pradesh and Gujarat.
    • However some of these have the “highest densities and diversity of large mammalian fauna” and also support livelihoods of local populations.
      • Earlier the Supreme Court directed all power lines of solar power units passing through Great Indian Bustard habitats in Rajasthan and Gujarat to be laid underground - as the overhead transmission lines could threaten the endangered species.
  • Suggestions:
    • Reduce Environmental Damage:
      • Optimising the size of land used, its location and impact on human habitation, agriculture and conservation of natural resources to reduce environmental damage.
    • Minimizing Land Use:
      • Minimising total land-use requirements for renewable energy by promoting offshore wind, rooftop solar and solar on water bodies.
    • Land Assessment:
      • Identification and assessment of land for renewable generation by limiting undue regional concentration and developing environmental and social standards for rating potential sites.
      • Policy makers and planners should exclude ONE with high density habitats when considering location of renewable energy projects.
    • Incentivising Agri Voltaics:
      • Attention on Indian agri-voltaics sector — securing benefits to farmers and incentivising agri voltaics uptake where crops, soils and conditions are suitable and yields can be maintained or improved.
        • Agri voltaics combine the agricultural use of land with the production of electric energy by photovoltaics.

Source: DTE

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