|Fig. 1: India's current renewable energy mix based on total installed capacity as of 2015.  (Source: V. Jadhav)|
India is the third largest consumer of energy in the world after China and the United States.  With a population of about 1.3 billion and high economic growth rate, India has huge demand for energy and is currently importing around 33% of its total energy needs. Covering this energy deficit - becoming an energy-independent nation - and at the same time, not comprising the economic growth is a big challenge for India. Today, nearly 70% of India's power generation capacity is based on coal. And despite that, about 240 million people in India do not have access to electricity. The use of renewable energy resources, though a very small percentage of current energy mix, presents a tremendous opportunity to overcome that challenge and achieve energy-independence as much sustainably as possible.
The Ministry of new and Renewable Energy, India classifies renewable energy sources into 4 primary categories: Wind, Solar, small Hydro and Bio-energy. Bio-energy is the umbrella term for Biomass power, Bagasse Cogeneration and Waste to Energy. Unlike fossil fuels, India's renewable energy resources are distributed much more evenly across the country, though there are still some strong regional variations - particularly for hydropower.
As of December 2015, renewable energy has reached a total installed capacity of 40 GW, with over 20% growth in just last 5 years. Wind energy has the highest share in this capacity, producing close to 63% of installed capacity (25 GW), followed by bio-power (5.6 GW), solar power (5.2 GW) and small-hydro power (4.2 GW). These four together contribute 13.6% of total installed capacity for electricity. Also, India occupies the fourth position in the world in wind power generation. Fig. 1 shows India's current (2015) renewable energy mix.
Studies estimate that India has renewable energy potential of ~900 GW from commercially exploitable sources, with 102 GW Wind, 20 GW Small Hydro, 25 GW Bio-energy and 750 GW solar power (assuming 3% wasteland is made available). The bio-energy (25 GW) constitutes of ~17.5 GW from biomass power, about 5 GW from bagasse cogeneration and ~2.5 GW from waste to energy.
It is still highly unlikely that India can immediately stop adding new coal plants in the capacity additions, with the sheer magnitude of electricity demand being a preliminary reason behind that.
Additionally, though the technology costs are falling for wind and solar energy, those reductions are not yet strong enough to justify investment without some form of subsidy. With some of the best wind sites are already occupied, the next measure is repowering turbines, which again reflects higher capital costs. Solar power also faces some issues like land acquisition, difficulty of enforcing purchase obligations on the local distribution utilities, availability of financing etc.
The intermittent nature of wind and solar energy is all the more peculiar in India, owing to the relative weakness of the transmission network, the evening peak in power demand and the measurable seasonality in solar and wind output that comes with the monsoon. 
In the COP21 conference at Paris, France (December, 2015), India has pledged to achieve about 40% cumulative electric power from non-fossil fuel resources by 2030. The Indian government has up-scaled the target of renewable energy capacity to 175 GW by the year 2022 which includes 100 GW from solar, 60 GW from wind, 10 GW from bio-power and 5 GW from small hydro-power. The 100 GW solar will constitute of 40 GW rooftop and 60 GW utility-scale projects. A very recent example is the Kamuthi solar plant in Tamil Nadu, India, which is coming online (2016) as the world's largest solar plant with a capacity of 648 MW.
Renewable energy forms an integral part of India's current and future energy policy. If India follows the ambitious plan it has volunteered for, it can accomplish the dual goal of economic development and green-energy production, which is certainly within the realms of possibility.
© Vijaysinh Jadhav. The author grants permission to copy, distribute and display this work in unaltered form, with attribution to the author, for noncommercial purposes only. All other rights, including commercial rights, are reserved to the author.
 "India Energy Outlook," International Energy Agency, 2015.
 "Renewables 2016 Global Status Report," Renewable Energy Policy Network for the 21st Century (REN21), 2016.
 "Global Wind Report 2015," Global Wind Energy Council, April 2016.