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India hopes to attract over $4 bln in green energy

Posted by Yogesh on Tuesday, 7 October, 2008

NEW DELHI (Reuters) – India is hoping to attract investments of more than $4 billion in renewable energy over the next 5-7 years, as it prepares to unveil a new biofuels policy within a month, the renewable energy minister said.

Domestic and foreign companies such as India’s Tata group and Reliance Industries as well as state-run utilities are among hundreds of companies vying for a stake in India’s emerging green energy sector.

Another 150 companies are also keen to set up biofuel processing plants, Vilas Muttemwar told Reuters in an interview.

“A lot of scope is there in the coming days for renewable energy… According to our information, nearly 200 billion rupees ($4.3 billion) is the investment we are expecting in five to seven years,” he said during Reuters Global Environment Summit.

The investments span solar, hydro, wind and biofuel energy.

India aims to generate 25,000 megawatts of power from renewable energy over the next four years, more than double the current generation level of 12,000 MW.

Only three percent of India’s total power mix is now from renewables, and developing this sector is at the center of India’s national plan on climate change which does not commit to any emission targets.

In spite of its pledge to clean technology, pollution-spewing coal remains the backbone of India’s power sector — accounting for about 60 percent of generation — with the government planning to add about 70,000 MW in the next five years.

K. Srinivas, climate change and energy coordinator for Greenpeace, said the optimism around green energy in India was not backed by adequate government incentives for generation.

“Renewable energy has been in a take-off stage for some time now,” he said. “The industry is trying to wake up, but what about the government? Even the budgetary support for renewables is negligible.”

BOOSTING GREEN ENERGY

Muttemwar said that nearly 56 percent of India’s billion plus population did not have access to electricity, and therefore coal-fired power generation was needed for supplies.

But India was hoping to spread the use of green energy with a new biofuels policy, which would be implemented within a month or so, the minister said.

The country aims to lift the level of biofuel that has to be mixed in petrol and diesel to 20 percent by 2017 from the present level of five percent, worrying some analysts who fear it might be at the expense of food output.

But others say it offers a way to trim the country’s hefty fossil fuel import bill. India imports 70 percent of the oil it consumes.

Muttemwar said that although the targeted blending level would be increased over the next decade, the policy would ensure it would not be at the expense of food.

“The prime minister has very categorically advised us that no food for fuel, and we are not encouraging that kind of thing in ethanol generation,” he said, referring to usage of sugarcane crop for biofuel.

“Wherever there is a surplus…and sometimes what happened is that there is a surplus crop in sugarcane….only then farmers have the alternative to go for ethanol.”

Muttemwar said the government was carrying on research on the wild plant jatropha and other varieties to identify a suitable non-edible oil-bearing plant that could be grown across nearly 65 million hectares (163 million acres) of wasteland.Source Reuters

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