Re-Energizing Maharashtra: An Assessment of Renewable Energy Policies, Challenges and Opportunities

Maharashtra has been one of the most industrialized and urbanized states in the country. However, data suggests that there is an ample scope for making these growth benefits more inclusive. This can be clearly seen from the fact that more than 45% of households (~52 million people) in the state are still using firewood and other biomass as a fuel for cooking energy needs. Although rural electricity penetration under the central Governments RGGVY programme is complete for Maharashtra, a significant number of rural households in particular continue to rely on kerosene and firewood for lighting and cooking respectively. Even electrified rural households face long hours of power cuts each day. Industries are also affected by constant scheduled and unscheduled power outages and are required to opt for captive power generation or cut down their production. Due to long power cuts, other businesses both in rural and urban areas of the state also rely on back-up generators which has resulted in significant amount of diesel consumption towards non- transport purposes. Renewable energy (RE) technologies offer immense opportunities to address power shortage, promote energy access, and improve energy security by reducing conventional fuel consumption in the state.RE can also significantly minimize the subsidy to agricultural consumers in the state as well as help meet the industrial/commercial and residential sector’s rising energy needs.

Small-scale biomass and solar plants are well-suited to serve rural households and agricultural pump set loads, while captive solar/biomass based plants can be an option to meet both electricity and heating/cooling needs of commercial/industrial consumers. An important application of decentralized renewable energy systems is to meet the total energy needs of the scattered and dispersed rural population. It has been observed that due to various reasons, including an inadequate transmission and distribution network, large grid-connected projects (based on conventional or renewable energy) are typically not suited to scattered, remote un-electrified settlements. Here up scaling renewable energy-based micro grids can be an appropriate solution. In this context, the main objective of this study is to critically examine the state’s renewable energy landscape to find gaps, barriers and implementation challenges specific to Maharashtra.

Currently Maharashtra is one of the leading states with RE installations. Maharashtra declared a policy for power generation from non-conventional sources of energy in Dec 2008. The state also has set targets for capacity installation for four different renewable based power generation options (i.e. wind, biomass, bagasse based cogeneration and SHP). However it does not have any provisions for the development of critical renewable energy resources such as solar and waste-to-energy. The policy is also largely restricted to the development of power generation and not energy which has a wider range of applications including thermal, mechanical etc.as a whole. Keeping this in view, it is critical that Maharashtra should implement a comprehensive renewable energy policy with a focus on promoting large scale solar projects (including grid connected rooftop and off grid projects) in both urban and rural areas of the state.

In this study, we reviewed the major barriers, issues and gaps facing accelerated deployment of appropriate renewable technologies through literature review as well as interactions with key stakeholders across this sector. Those stakeholders included project developers, representatives from the State Electricity Regulatory Commission, the State Nodal Agency, and other government agencies, etc. The primary audiences of this study are the state legislators and policymakers.

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