Most South Asian countries have been exploring sustainable alternative energy sources such as solar, wind, hydropower, and biomass, mostly to sustain their rapid economic growth and rising energy demand. The geographical locations of these countries make them extremely vulnerable to global climate change, however, this fact also gives them access to a variety of renewable energy sources. Therefore, a transition from non-renewables to renewables is crucial to ensure sustainable development.
To this effect, the governments of these countries have initiated renewable energy policies and programmes to encourage industries and individuals to employ renewable energy sources. Countries like India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, and Sri Lanka are witnessing huge development in utility-scale renewables. While countries like Afghanistan, Nepal, and Bhutan have achieved success in the setting up of decentralised renewable energy generation systems that are off-grid, due to their mountainous terrain. That being said, the combination of both on-grid and off-grid renewables has played a major role in increasing access to electricity in all these countries.
This country has immense renewable energy potential, but still has one of the lowest access rates and electricity consumption rates in the world. Its wind power potential alone, is estimated to be higher than the projected demand for several years ahead. However, since 2001, the country’s situation has greatly improved. Their electrification rate has increased by five-fold and agreements have been signed with other Asian countries to import electricity. Policies and regulatory landscapes have evolved, leading to the development of several large-scale and small-scale renewable energy projects.
According to a World Bank study, 84% of Afghanistan’s population has access to electricity in 2016, up from just 28% in 2006. The year 2018 was especially good for renewable energy development in the country. A tender for a 5 MW hybrid-solar project was issued and a 50 MW solar-hybrid project is to be developed by the government at the Hisar-e-Shahi Industrial Park in Nangarhar and Khost provinces of Afghanistan. Apart from this, 400 MW grid-connected solar PV projects will be developed in Kabil, Nangarhar, Kandahar, Herat, and Balkh provinces.
The country aims to generate 10% of its electricity from renewable sources by 2021. Currently, the country’s cumulative installed renewable energy capacity stands at just 559 MW, but in early March 2019, the World Bank approved a $185 million credit to fund the development of 310 MW of renewable energy. Following this lead, Riyadh-based infrastructure developer Alfanar, signed a $100 million agreement to build a 100 MW solar project in the country. These initiatives have backed the government’s efforts to provide electricity to a power-hungry nation.
The electricity access rate in Bhutan has increased from 61% in 2006 to 100% in 2016, ahead of the country’s initial 2020 goal. Their main source of energy comes from grid-tied hydropower with an installed capacity of over 1.6 GW with another 720 MW likely to be commissioned soon. However, grid extension is particularly difficult in Bhutan’s mountainous terrain. Thus, the government emphasized off-grid renewable energy projects that focused on providing around 2,000 solar home systems to rural households and accepting donor-assisted grant projects. For the next step, to sustain the off-grid systems, communities will need adequate training on how to install and repair these systems in the case of a malfunction or breakdown.
The government’s continued to focus on solar and wind energy has led to an increase in the share of renewables generated, of the total power, from 4.04% in 2016-17 to 8.6% in 2016-18. This number is expected to increase by 18% by 2022 leading to a decrease in fossil fuels by 10-15% by the same year. In December 2018, India’s installed renewable energy capacity stood at around 76 GW (approx. 21% of the country’s total installed capacity). Competitive bidding in the solar and wind segments, with mega auctions conducted by the central and state agencies, has completely disrupted market dynamics. These highly competitive tariffs have made both the segments a feasible option for DISCOMS.
In May 2018, the Ministry of New and Renewable Energy (MNRE) announced the solar-wind hybrid policy to help increase project uptake. This has spurred development in the sector. Rooftop solar and floatovoltaics have also gained traction. Going forward, the MNRE has come up with a timeline that will be followed by utility-scale solar tenders and while conduction auctions. This will be helpful if followed by wind and hybrid projects as well.
Nepal currently has only 40% of its domestic needs met by the national grid system. The country has almost 1 GW of installed power generation capacity, which is almost entirely hydro-based. Since the country mainly relies on imports from India and does not have the financial bandwidth to develop large-scale hydro projects, it has been driving rural electrification through off-grid renewables. The government provides subsidies for off-grid renewables through a body called the Alternative Energy Promotion Centre (AEPC). The AEPC supports agricultural and commercial activities based on renewables and provides technical assistance to ensure proper quality checks are maintained.
In 2006, Nepal adopted a landmark Rural Energy Policy, that mandates the government to use renewables in their efforts to expand rural electrification. These measures have helped electricity access rates increase from 51.2% in 2006 to 90.7% in 2016. In April 2018, the country began the construction of its largest solar energy plant of 25 MW to increase solar energy generation. In 2019, Nepal’s Department of Electricity has approved survey licences for 21 locations to prepare for the possible installation of 56 solar plants with a combined capacity of 317.14 MW.
Among Pakistan’s low-carbon energy generation options, hydropower has been the most prominent, accounting for almost one-third of the country’s electricity generation. By tapping into the country’s solar, wind, and biomass potential, they could spur immense social and economic development. A great moment for the solar industry in the country was in 2015-16 when 400 MW of solar PV projects were completed.
Apart from solar, there have been several wind power plants in Pakistan as well. Some of these include the 50 MW Jhimpir Wind Plant in Sindh and the 30 MW Tapal Wind Farm in Sindh. Several providers have entered the renewable energy market by offering off-grid options such as solar home systems and solar water pumps.
By 2015, Sri Lanka had almost 10% of its electricity produced from renewables, mostly from large hydropower. They have recently given the go-ahead to a 100 MW floating solar power project in a bid to increase renewable-based electricity generation. The government has also invited international proposals to build this solar power plant that will help the country in reaching its target of 200 MW by 2020 and 1,000 MW by 2025.
Summarized from RenewableWatch