Green Vision: How Solar Cities Can Help India’s Quest To Become Energy Efficient
The solar city programme aims to empower urban local governments to address energy challenges at the city level.
A total of 24 states /Union Territories have identified cities to be developed as solar cities. The information was given by Union Minister of New and Renewable Energy, Raj Kumar Singh, in a response to a written question in Lok Sabha on 31 March 2022.
These are Assam, Bihar, Chhattisgarh, Delhi, Gujarat, Haryana, Himachal Pradesh, Jharkhand, Karnataka, Kerala, Madhya Pradesh, Meghalaya, Odisha, Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh, Uttarakhand, West Bengal, Andaman and Nicobar, Punjab, Sikkim, Tripura, Mizoram, Daman and Diu and Dadra and Nagar Haveli and Goa.
The cities identified for development include Bodh Gaya, New Raipur, Dwarka, Panchkula, Shimla, Thiruvananthapuram, Bhubaneswar, Jaisalmer, Ayodhya, Dehradun and Amritsar among several others.
The experiment is not novel and many cities around the world are setting targets and introducing polices for promoting renewable energy and reducing green house gas (GHG) emissions and countries like Australia and the US are developing solar cities.
What Is A Solar City?
The solar city aims at minimum 10 per cent reduction in projected demand of conventional energy at the end of five years, through a combination of enhancing supply from renewable energy sources in the city and energy efficiency measures.
In a solar city all types of renewable energy-based projects like solar, wind, biomass, small hydro, waste to energy etc, may be installed along with possible energy efficiency measures depending on the need and resource availability in the city.
Need For Solar Cities
Urbanisation and economic development are leading to a rapid rise in energy demand in urban areas in our country leading to enhanced GHG emissions. The challenge posed by warming climate, thus, has become the most important concern engaging the international community today.
Countries have undertaken obligations to reduce their carbon footprint as part of their nationally determined contributions (NDCs) under the Paris Agreement. NDCs are at the heart of the Paris Agreement which requires each country to outline and communicate their post-2020 climate actions.
Under the NDCs, India has committed to have 40 per cent of the total installed capacity from renewables by 2030, and also to reduce its emissions by 33-35 per cent from 2005 levels.
Secondly, several Indian cities and towns are experiencing rapid growth in the peak electricity demand. The local governments and the electricity utilities are finding it difficult to cope with this rapid rise in demand and as a result most of the cities/towns are facing electricity shortages.
In this context, the ‘Development of Solar Cities’ programme is designed to support/encourage urban local bodies (ULBs) to prepare a road map to guide their cities in becoming ‘renewable energy cities’ or ‘solar cities’.
The Ministry of New and Renewable Energy (MNRE) had launched a program on ‘Development of Solar Cities’ in February 2008, which was later revised in 2014. Under the scheme, a total of 60 cities/towns are proposed to be supported for development as ‘solar/green cities’. At least one city in each state to a maximum of seven cities in a state may be supported by the ministry.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi has desired that each State should have at least one solar city where all electricity needs of the city are fully met from solar energy or other renewable energy sources.
It was in this context that the Ministry of New and Renewable Energy had requested each state/UT to select at-least one city to be developed as solar city. A ‘concept note’ on developing solar city was circulated to the states/UTs with a request to finalise an action plan for development of the identified cities as solar cities and implement the plan in a time bound manner.
The ministry on 24 August last year organised a webinar on the ‘solarisation of Indian cities’ with the support of the World Bank. The webinar witnessed the presence of panellists including senior officials from various state governments who shared key details of their plan, achievements and way forward for implementing the solar city programme.
The programme aims to promote the use of renewable energy in urban areas by providing support to the ULBs for preparation and implementation of a road map to develop their cities as solar cities.
Under the programme, ULBs would be assisted in preparation of a master plan for increasing renewable energy supply and energy efficiency measures in the city. Assistance and technical help is also given for installation of renewable energy projects under various programmes of MNRE.
There is no separate scheme for solar cities and funds available under different schemes are to be utilised for development of solar cities.
How The Programme Works
Under the programme, the target would be to utilise a maximum roof space available for installation of rooftop solar, and installation of waste to energy plants, etc. Further, it is also in pipeline to explore other energy sources like wind, small hydro, biomass as per the available potential and use of decentralised applications like solar street lights, solar trees, etc.
The Ministry of New and Renewable Energy is already implementing a number of schemes for promoting the adoption of renewable sources of energy for generation of electricity. These schemes include setting up of solar parks, rooftop solar, solar street lights, use of municipal waste for generating power etc.
The solar city programme aims to empower urban local governments to address energy challenges at the city level. However, it has a larger benefit to the environment, economy and development.
Solar cities would largely benefit from low power costs, reduced emissions, and low carbon footprint. In addition to this, the installation of rooftop solar panels will bring down the electricity consumption of the households, address electricity shortage issues, and save electricity expenditure.
The development of solar cities is a step in the direction of utilising renewable energy and making India energy equipped and simultaneously strengthening India’s commitment to fighting climate change.
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