Solar panels in Ladakh

When planning for a vacation, we all scout for locations that are green and serene. We all want to enjoy the fruits of nature but when it comes to rescuing and fighting for it, we tend to look the other way. This I realized while compiling the report on the state of renewable energy in the country.

The report titled "Powering Ahead with Renewables: Leaders and Laggards" looks at Renewable Purchase Obligation (RPO) targets of all states and their achievements. RPO targets decide how much electricity produced in the country should come from renewable sources and hence is a good judge of the improvements being made in clean energy. Sadly, only seven states out of 29 showed a commitment towards building a greener country. And the capital offender has been Delhi.

Infographic on Renewable Energy

The national capital, despite having a good potential for solar energy, set a meager target of producing only 2% electricity from renewable energy sources. The actual achievement was even more shocking. It managed to produce only 0.01%, a deficit of 1.99%. Tamil Nadu, on the other hand, set a 9% target and achieved 19.14%, indicating that some states are taking the issue of green electricity seriously and some are hurting it with their dismissive attitude.

The government wanted to generate 7% electricity from renewables but gave state governments the freedom to decide the figure. Result: the national target was downsized to 5.44%. RPO policy could have been a tool to bridge the demand-supply gap in the energy sector across the country. Had the state utilities stuck to their targets, 18,300 million units of extra electricity would have been produced which would have powered nearly 7.25 million households. But the toothless mechanism combined with targets that are not ambitious has failed to give any impetus to renewables in India.

Delhi as the national capital should have been a trendsetter but it has set the trend in the reverse direction. It could have fulfilled its RPO target by setting up rooftop solar panels in a big way. However, keeping in line with the tradition in the Indian government where non-performance is rarely penalized, Delhi too got away for not meeting its goal. Worse, states like Tamil Nadu and Karnataka who worked hard towards making renewable electricity a reality have been disheartened on not being rewarded for their achievement.

Map on Renewable Energy in India

The RPO mechanism has been built in a way that it makes me wonder why only states with high resources are being forced to generate electricity from renewables. Consider Rajasthan. It is among the country's poorest states yet the onus to lift the national renewable energy target has been put on its resources. Now take Delhi. It is a rich, developed with high energy consumption and even higher per capita income. Then why is Delhi or Punjab, who have the potential and the money to invest in renewable energy, not sharing the burden with Rajasthan or Tamil Nadu?

It is time for a course correction and it must start by building a more equitable RPO mechanism. Each state must develop an RPO target which is based not only on the resources available in the state but also takes into account its economic growth, per capita income and prevalent energy demand. An effective compliance mechanism needs to be set in place which penalizes non-action and encourages commitment. Financial support needs to be provided to state electricity boards, which due to their huge losses, shy away from "expensive" renewable energy. Until this overhaul happens, "go green" will only be a dream.

Neha Khator is an activist with Greenpeace India and writes about clean energy.