June 29, 2017

Speaking at Release of Renewable Energy Integration Nation Study Report, New Delhi

Thank you very much Mr PK Pujari, Secretary Power, for your kind words, Mr Bakshi, Member CRC, Mr Verma, Chairman Central Electricity Authority, Ms. Jyoti Arora, Mr KVS Bhabha, Mr Jha, CMD of Powergrid Corporation, Mr Michael Satin of USAID, Mr Soni from POSOCO, both the distinguished authors of this report, Dr Jacqueline Kochwan and Dr SR Narsimhan, ladies and gentlemen.

First of all, I would like to thank you, Mr Satin for all your wonderful comments. India and the US certainly share a very-very, if I can use a energy sector term, a very robust relationship and soon after this wonderful interaction that Hon’ble Prime Minister and Hon’ble President of the US have had in Washington, I think, it’s very appropriate that our joint partnership in the Energy Sector has come with one more achievement, one more outcome for which all of the stakeholders, who are in this room, have been working for so long. And, I must compliment the authors and all the other stakeholders – the Ministry, the CEA, CERC, other organizations and individuals – who have played an important role in making this happen and, certainly, would like to thank the USAID for your support, your continued engagement in our various programmes in the energy sector.

Sitting there and hearing a lot of coal bashing, I was wondering whether if this goes on too long, what happens to my role also as the Coal Minister. It is a little bit of a contradiction in terms that I have to keep the coal industry also going, while I ensure large scale renewable outreach in the energy sector, and from the Power side also maintain that the grid stability and the grid continues to be robust and does not have, ever, or never ever, have a situation of what happened in August, 2012. But the good part is that we are all working as a team, we have broken all the silos that used to constraint development of this sector and, today, we have Coal India also, having its first one thousand Megawatt of renewable power generation in the current year, slated to come up in the current year, and I am given to understand that Coal India’s own ambition is to also generate about 10,000 Megawatt (10 Gigawatts) of renewable energy as its contribution to a better planet, as its contribution to greening this country and greening the world.

So, this kind of sensitivity and combined, collective, collaborative approach, really defines the success of renewable energy in this country. Of, course, as we are moving towards a New India, I think, it’s only appropriate that we also plan a new Grid for a new India. And, as the distinguished authors said, transmission is going to be a key element to the larger roll-out of renewable energy in this country.

And, going forward, I think in different aspects, be it the policy makers, be it the regulator, be it the electricity authorities, be it the Grid operators, Grid managers and frankly even, the consumers of this country. All of us will have to get sensitized to the changing scenario of different sources of energy, how different sources of energy play an important role in the overall ecosystem, not necessarily only the value of power or the value of power that we determine in the short run, but the long term impact of the different sources of power – its pricing, its direct and indirect costs.

I think we need an overhaul of the mindset of the nation in this context, in the newer context. In fact, we very often, when we are making policy, we also find that most policies – be it in the Ministry of Coal, be it in the Ministry of Power, also in the Ministry of Renewable Energy are tailored around a mindset of shortages and perpetual distress and we have to, I think, re-orient our policies, our regulations, to now work in a scenario where the country is power surplus, the country is coal surplus, renewable energy is not anymore more expensive than thermal power. Certainly, in the long run, it’s far cheaper than thermal based power.

After all, who can predict what thermal power will cost five years, ten years or twenty five years from now, but one can certainly, based on current pricing, know that we will continue to get renewable energy – be it Solar, be it Wind, be it Hydro – at a defined price for decades to come, and it’s only getting better by the day. And, in this scenario, the fact that India is playing such an important role in the global effort to address the concerns of climate change, very few countries in the world really are planning over 20 percent of their energy consumption, in installed capacity be would, probably, be 70-80 percent in the next few years, coming out of renewable energy, but 20 percent of our actual energy consumption coming out of only Wind, Solar, small Hydro. When we add the larger Hydro beyond 25 MW, which is by and large renewable and we are already discussing that it should be recognized as such, which is done by almost all the countries in the world.

I think a study done by the Ministry of Power has shown that, say and except four or five countries, everybody else considers Hydro as renewable and we are on the path to do that. Once we do that, we would probably be going closer to 30 percent of actual energy consumed becoming renewable by in the next five or six years.

The study has also shown that at peak hours or on occasions, we would go as high as 55 or 56 percent. Did you also take the large Hydro into consideration in that or it’s only Wind, Solar? So, if we take the larger hydro, then possibly we could do what happened in Britain for one day or which happened in, where there were 100 percent renewable for one day in the current year, or Germany claimed that it went up to 80 percent, at that point of time, I think very soon before the Hon’ble Prime Minister was there last month. On renewable energy, if we take the large Hydro also into consideration, I think this 56 percent may actually go up to 70, 75-80 percent on a nice rainy day. So, India is really today moving to global benchmarks and that has been our approach of this government in the last three years.

The current Government of India and the people of India will not settle for second best. We have to be the best in the World. We have to aim to be the best in the World. We will set our standards, set our goals to be better than everybody else in the World. We are willing to bring in the best of technologies. We are wanting to be a global responsible citizen. We are wanting to leave behind for our next generation, a more robust, a more sustainable future, and there will be no compromise, whatsoever, in our pursuit of this goal.

The report, certainly, as we move towards the better and better energy mix in this country, the nine reports so far and the tenth that we have launched today will certainly be a guiding force, a guiding light in our endeavours to rapidly roll-out renewable energy. I must say, it’s a matter of deep satisfaction for me today when I hear the Chairperson of CEA mention that when we announced the 175 Gigawatt target, about two and a half years ago, he was full of trepidation, he was very-very concerned, and I hope, I have your permission to quote what you have just said. He said, I have been a load dispatcher myself since CEA used to handle this task for many years before POSOCO probably took over. He said after fifteen years of actually managing load dispatches, I was a concerned individual when you announced the 175 Gigawatts. But, today as I sit on this podium, I am reassured and I am very-very convinced and satisfied that we will have no problem in handling a 175 GW of renewable energy.

And, I think it is this pursuit of the last two years relentlessly done by people like Jyoti, Mr Soni, as we saw Dr Narsimhan and Dr. Jacqueline probably burn the midnight oil and over 365 days of labour and I would say this can only be labour of love to put in that kind of effort to come up with such a robust story or a robust future in such a short period of time. And I was asking Jyoti there, do these nine reports and what we are releasing today all integrate among themselves before they can integrate the Grid, and she has assured me that they all work in partnership, in collaboration with each other and that ladies and gentlemen, is a matter of great satisfaction for each one of us in this room who have contributed to making this happen.

Mr Pujari lays down Office as Secretary, Power, tomorrow. I will certainly, certainly miss him but it’s a great and a very befitting – what’s it called a swansong? To a glorious career, and I would like all of us to stand up and give him a standing ovation today, for his leadership of the power sector.

Considering the importance and the growing impact that renewable energy sources of power have had in our country in the last couple of years, I was just informed by Ms Jyoti Arora that we have mandated that there shall be a Central Registry of Renewable Energy Sources, for which instructions have already been given out, the mandating of it has already been done. I would urge the regulator to help us make the necessary regulation, so that we can ensure that the Central Registry captures all the sources of renewable energy across the length and breadth of India. And Chairperson, CEA, has assured me that very soon, within a month or so, they will come up with the mechanism by which this data will be captured. Keep it simple, may be a mobile app, on which people can on their own feed in the data that the Central Registry needs to maintain. Data will also be available for the public at large. It will encourage other people to come into the sector. It will help Grid Managers, Load Dispatch Centres to manage their own plans going forward. It will also help us create a national map on who is doing what, which other States, which are sensitive to this issue.

I am sure the people of India, in the years to come, will also start voting in elections for governments which are sensitive to the environment, which are caring for the environment and at that point of time, such a Central Registry will be an important tool for us, politicians, to go to the people and say that this is what we have done in our term in Office to add to a sensitive and a more sustainable future of India. And this Central Registry, I think, will become an important tool for policy makers going forward.

I am sure, the authors of this report would have benefitted very much if we had such a Registry, but then for the future, I am sure this will turn out to be a great support going forward. Another very important decision that the Ministry of Power has recently taken to support Renewable Energy sector has been that the technical minimum at which power plants, thermal power plants, are allowed to come down at which they will continue to get their costs.

I am not a technical person, so please pardon me, if I make any mistake in the technical terminology. But, whatever, that 70 percent is going to be reduced to 55 percent. So, the technical minimum we are already mandating to be brought down to 55 percent, so that coal based thermal plants, as the authors have showed us, can be ramped down up to 55 percent, allowing greater integration of renewable power into the Grid.

And, already NTPC and the Ministry of Power are in research with Fraunhofer Institute of Germany to see how we can have faster ramp down of coal based power. The CEA has already mandated that we can ramp down at 3 percent of the capacity of each plant. So, a 660 MW Plant is permitted to ramp down at about 19.8 MW per minute already, but we are working with Fraunhofer, some project has come up in UK in Radcliff where the ramp down at 25 MW per minute, which will help the Gird Managers to do their job better.

So, coal over the years in the future will have to be prepared for a occasional ramp down to ensure Grid stability but as Chairman, CEA, said that the best way to provide a spinning reserve for Renewable Energy is ultimately, Hydro. Only yesterday evening till the late hours, we have had a wonderful engagement with the Hydro sector in India. A lot of good ideas have come on the table, some of them have been resisted by the Power Ministry, but I have to, after yesterday’s meeting, I have not got down to sitting down with the Power Ministry. But a few things we can support from the regulation point of view, particularly, transmission. I think, samajhne wale samajh gaye honge, but I think, as a nation, we will also have to, all of us, work to see how we can make Hydro once again a robust growth engine of the power sector, which will certainly ensure a far more seamless and efficient way of balancing the Grid.

While I was walking in, just a few minutes ago, my friends from the media who never let me down and are with me in every part of my journey over the last three years, and for which also, I think, I don’t know, today is Pujari Sahab’s day but one of these days, we will have to, on a much larger platform, acknowledge the role of the media in my own work over the last three years, which has truly been phenomenal. I mean there is so much I have learnt from the media, I can’t tell you. But they were asking me what’s new today?

I mean they are sick of the same, Gobi Ka Parauntha every day. So, I am wondering what can be something new for the day. Because, I think, such important things like a pathway to integrate 175 GW of renewable energy is somehow not catching the fancy of, or the headlines in the next day’s papers, which is a sad thing. Honestly, the amount of work that goes into all of these, the backend of all these outcomes often gets unnoticed, unsung and we can’t do all these great things for this country unless this backend is secured.

I have very often, on many platforms, said  that it’s time that the nation actually had at least a column, at least a small slot on television, which speaks about all the good things that are happening, which speaks about all the…., and these are very inspirational for other people.

You know, when I walked into the room, and I saw so many people, I said, my God, in these days, we don’t get such a large audience for a programme. How did you manage to get so many people interested in this subject?

It’s a great support and encouragement for people who are putting in large amount of effort in preparing the country for a better future. And I think that should get an equally important recognition, which will encourage the next generation, encourage others to play the role at the backend also. Otherwise, for us Ministers, it’s very easy, one programme to the other, one interview to the next. A lot of glory can come our way but it really has, it pales in significance when you see each one of the ladies and gentlemen on the dais, off the dais (inaudible) to make these success stories really happen.

And I do hope my friends from the media will not let me down, because I do believe that these are really the backbone of the success story that we have had in the last two-two and a half years. A country, which permanently for years and decades, believed that it will always be power shortage, there will always be coal shortage. Millions of people had resigned to the fate of not getting power. And hundreds of millions were resigned to the fate of not getting 24 hours power. That story is changing. And in that changing story, to maintain sustainability as an important outcome is, to my mind, a huge story. And this will be the path that will help us maintain power prices at affordable prices. End of the day, this is a path, which will create jobs for the country.

When I was just asking Mr Pujari, a 4,000 MW coal-based power plant, an ultra-mega power plant, what kind of jobs can that generate? All the equipment is largely made in automated large plants, the power plant itself. And, I have gone to so many plants now, the Control Room handles the entire plant, coal handling plants, automated plants are handling coal. Loading, unloading in the rakes or trucks is getting automated.

Coal mining activity is gradually, we are improving the productivity on that, automating wherever possible to keep the coal costs low, so that the consumers are not stressed with high power prices, high power tariffs. But, compare that to a Renewable Energy project.

I mean a waste to energy or the projects for which I got delayed where we are looking at briquetting this rice husk and paddy and using that briquette into coal-based power plants into making gas. All of these, when we look at the number of jobs that it will generate, direct and indirect. When you look at the amount of money you will be giving to the farmer instead of burning his rice husk. He will actually get a value for that rice husk. When you set up a 1,000 Megawatts or 1 Gigawatt of Solar Plant, making each of those modules, each of those solar equipment, maintaining it, cleaning it. The ecosystem of working, the jobs has such a huge multiplier effect that that itself becomes a social cause or a social reason to encourage renewable energy.

I mean on a apple to apple, if we are to compare the entire ecosystem from beginning to end, in the current day of automation, where at least this government has laid emphasis not on a top-down approach, but on a bottom-up approach. I think renewable energy has the potential of creating may be seven or eight or ten jobs per, ten times more jobs per kilowatt hour or unit of electricity than the traditional forms of energies has. Maybe, if somebody in this room or a group of some of you can do a study on that, that would make for very interesting reading.

I was today also looking at, as I just mentioned, at the possibilities of using this waste and I would urge the regulator and the department to consider, and I am making …… in an open forum instead of my office that when a coal based power plant, suppose, it uses 10 percent of this briquettes coming out of rice husk instead of coal. Can we categorize that as renewable energy up to 10 percent of the energy that is produced, and encourage more and more people to use these rice husk based briquettes in replacement for coal and I am told that it would be a very good value proposition because the calorific value of this rice husk can go as high as 3,800 per kilo.

So, all of us have to think innovative and work as a team. I am only asking giving this example to show you how together when each one of us comes up with newer ideas and these ideas only evolve in discussions and engagement. It’s not as if I had planned for it before 10 o’clock this morning when they started explaining to me what they have planning for this problem, which we have been trying to address.

Can we, and I have also thrown this suggestion to my team this morning, can we look at the manure coming out of gobar, the cow dung, which is truly organic manure and, actually, internationally fetches a premium valuation. But because it is made in small number, ……. is not getting the value. How can we look at, instead of giving a large amounts of subsidy to, maybe plants, which are set up or (inaudible) required for renewable energy. Can we look at some more innovative ways to ensure that we bring down the waste or utilize the waste to generate wealth in this country?

One thought that came up this morning, we are, of course, giving Ujjwala LPG connections to the poor of this country, free of charge. And I am happy to say my colleague, Mr Dharmendra Pradhan, has done some fantastic work in one year to give over 2 crore poor women, dignity of life, through free LPG connection, so that they are not at the mercy of wood and coal and other traditional polluting and environment unfriendly forms of cooking. Target is to do 5 crores in another year, year and a half more!

Can we support that movement by taking up cow dung to gas plants across the length and breadth of the country, wherever there is a cowshed or a Gaushala and incentivize that gas being bottled into maybe 5 kg containers and provide to all these beneficiaries under the Ujjwala Scheme, so that they also get low cost, affordable, localized gas.

That, ladies and gentlemen, is the unique and distinctive feature of this government working to break the silos, working as a team, engaging with each other, to commit, to make a New India.

Thank You.

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