The World Institute of Sustainable Energy (WISE) organised a one-day seminar on 'A Renewable Energy Law for India', at The Imperial, New Delhi, on 25 August 2005. Supported by the Ministry of Non-Conventional Energy Sources (MNES), Government of India, the seminar was organised in association with the Confederation of Indian Industry (CII)-Sohrabji Godrej Green Business Centre.

Why a Law for renewable energy one may ask? Does not the Electricity Act, 2003 sufficiently empower the renewable energy sector? Although the power of appropriate legislation to bring about change is amply demonstrated by the Electricity Act, 2003 - thus setting in motion a process of reform in the power sector -the Act addresses issues related to renewable power only marginally. The barriers to the development of renewable energy run across a wide spectrum. A comprehensive legislation aimed at removing these barriers and accelerating the development of renewable energy technologies is thus necessary. Although the government is committed to promoting the use of renewable energy sources, the commitment is not backed by legislation; it has remained confined to articulation of policy. It was this conviction and the institutional philosophy of striving for concrete action that spurred WISE to undertake the task of preparing a Model Renewable Energy Law for India, and pursue it to its logical conclusion, viz. adoption by the Indian Parliament. To complement its in-house expertise in renewables with that in jurisprudence, WISE sought the help of the National Law School of India University in Bangalore, particularly of CEERA, the law school's Centre for Environmental Law, Education, Research and Advocacy, to prepare the Draft Renewable Energy Law for India.

The seminar was inaugurated by Mr Vilas Muttemwar, Hon'ble Minister of State (Independent Charge) for Non-Conventional Energy Sources, Govt. of India. Other important dignitaries who graced the inauguration ceremony were, Mr A.M. Gokhale, Secretary, Ministry of Non-Conventional Energy Sources (MNES), Govt. of India; Justice Kuldip Singh, former Judge of the Supreme Court of India and Chairman, Delimitation Commission of India, New Delhi; Justice Ashok A Desai, former Chief Justice of Uttaranchal High Cour; Mr Ramesh Kymal, Managing Director, NEG-Micon (I) Pvt Ltd, and Chairman, Renewable Energy Council, CII-Godrej GBC; and Mr G M Pillai, founder Director General, WISE. Mr Muttemwar said it was imperative that an exclusive Act was put in place for the growth and development of the renewable energy sector and appreciated the initiative taken by WISE. "Renewable energy can provide India with energy security and energy independence," he said, stating that MNES will provide grid quality power to 25,000 remote villages by 2012, besides augmenting rural energy needs through bio-energy, and deploying renewable energy systems and devices for industrial, commercial and urban use. He further added that the Ministry would add 200,000 MW of generation capacity from renewable sources by 2050. Speaking on the occasion, Mr A M Gokhale said that there was need to downscale projects as this raised efficiency and shortened the gestation time for projects. "We have to talk about small once more as it is sustainable and viable," he added. "Large projects carry large environmental risks while small projects carry smaller risks. Therefore, India has to focus on the small," he reiterated.

In his address, Justice Kuldip Singh said renewable energy needed to be promoted to meet India's rural energy needs as it was sustainable and pollution free. "The draft Renewable Energy Act needs to address all stakeholders in the power sector rather than just the government," he added. Justice Ashok A Desai, in his keynote address, opined that while developing renewable energy sources, it was necessary to evaluate and address risks. In order to propagate the use of renewable energy, it was necessary to develop the minds of the people. While addressing the distinguished gathering, Mr Ramesh Kymal called for a paradigm shift from fossil fuels to renewable energy sources, to achieve a share of 20 per cent to 25 per cent of energy from renewables, by 2030. For this, it was imperative to enact the Renewable Energy legislation in India, he opined. In his welcome address, Mr G M Pillai said that the draft Renewable Energy Law for India charted a road map for energy independence. "It had been distilled from the experiences of other countries, especially Germany, Czech Republic, and China. It goes beyond just electricity, adopting a market-based approach rather than a subsidy-based model, to encourage the growth of renewable energy in India," he said.

Some of the Highlights of the draft Renewable Energy Law are:

  • Increasing the target for electricity generation from renewables to 10% by 2010 (as against 2012 currently) and 20% by 2020, of the total electricity generated in the country (and not as a percentage of installed capacity).
  • Making solar water heating mandatory throughout the urban areas of the country by 2012 in a phased manner.
  • Demonstration of solar rooftop lighting systems in 10,000 government buildings by 2010 in a time-bound manner, also incorporating building integrated photovoltaics.
  • Conversion of fossil fuel-based industrial heating to solar thermal heating, using new solar concentrator technology or its hybrids.
  • India has at present about 30,000 MW captive generating units (industrial units) of which about 18,000 MW are diesel based.
  • The draft law proposes time-bound conversion to biofuel-based generating units, saving large amounts of diesel.
  • Accelerating biofuel development and transportation energy to displace fossil fuels. A time-bound Renewable Fuel programme covering ethanol and biodiesel has been proposed.
  • Charting a definite road map for developing a hydrogen and fuel cell economy. Establishing Renewable Energy Development Funds in all states (on the pattern of Maharashtra).

The outcome of the seminar was the constitution of a special working group which would work towards refining the draft law, based on the suggestions of the speakers at the seminar, other individuals and organisations. The working group will also devise a strategy for advocacy of the legislation for its subsequent adoption by the parliament. The members comprise eminent personalities (who were part of the seminar), including Dr Pramod Deo, Chairman, Maharashtra Electricity Regulatory Commission (MERC) as Chairman; G M Pillai as Member Secretary; Dr Anil Kane, Chairman, Indian Wind Energy Association (InWEA); Ramesh Kymal; Josh Carmody, Expert, Renewable Energy and International Law project (REIL); Yogesh Mehra, MD, Enercon (India) Ltd; K Krishan, Chairman, Malavalli Power Plant (P) Ltd, Bangalore; and Chintan Shah, GM, SenergyGlobal, New Delhi.