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Why Jammu Kashmir is failing in renewable energy generation?

Jammu and Kashmir union territory has a huge potential for renewable energy generation, especially from hydro and solar sources.

By Ground report
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Jammu and Kashmir union territory has a huge potential for renewable energy generation, especially from hydro and solar sources. However, the UT is still facing a lot of challenges in tapping this potential and meeting its growing electricity demand.

J&K seems to be almost out of the race in tapping renewable energy to meet the challenge of acute shortage of electricity. The Indus Water Treaty between India and Pakistan has become a hurdle for J&K in tapping the vast hydroelectric potential that was flowing waste.

Taking the renewable energy course was perhaps an effective answer to meet the power shortage in the state. Unfortunately, the officialdom seems to have done hardly any groundwork to set up any solar power projects, although the number of unelectrified villages was highest in J&K as compared to any other state, particularly in the North.

According to the Ministry of New and Renewable Energy, J&K had an installed capacity of only 3,263.97 MW from renewable energy sources as of August 2021, which is less than 4% of the total renewable energy capacity in India. The UT also relies heavily on power purchase from the national grid and thermal power plants during winters when its own hydropower generation reduces and power demand rises.

Challenges in J&K renewable energy

So, what are the factors that are hindering the development of renewable energy in J&K? Here are some of the major challenges and risks that need to be addressed:

  • Rugged terrain and harsh climate: J&K has unique geographic, climatic, and ecological characteristics that offer an uncharted wealth of opportunities for sustainable energy generation. However, these also pose difficulties in installing and maintaining renewable energy infrastructure. The UT has a mountainous terrain, extreme weather conditions, and accessibility issues that can increase the cost and complexity of renewable energy projects.
  • Lack of desirable energy mix: J&K is heavily reliant on hydroelectricity, which makes up over 90% of its renewable energy capacity. However, hydropower is not consistent due to reliance on water and snowmelt. Additionally, hydro power projects can harm the environment and communities. To address these issues, J&K should expand its energy mix through solar, wind, biomass, and geothermal sources.
  • Policy and regulatory barriers: J&K has recently approved four sectoral policies to boost industrial growth and promote renewable energy development in the UT. These include the J&K Hydro Power and Renewable Energy Policy-2020, the J&K Solar Power Policy-2020, the J&K Wind Power Policy-2020, and the J&K Small Hydro Power Policy-2020. However, these policies are yet to be implemented effectively and create conducive conditions for attracting private investment in renewable energy projects. The UT also needs to address issues such as land acquisition, clearances, subsidies, tariffs, grid connectivity, and quality standards for renewable energy equipment.
  • Lithium mining risks: J&K recently found lithium reserves in Ladakh, potentially transforming India's EV industry and battery storage sector. However, lithium mining carries environmental and social risks, like water pollution, habitat loss, and human rights violations. Thus, J&K must prioritize sustainable mining to mitigate negative impacts and benefit local communities.

Holistic approach for J&K renewables

J&K can benefit from the latest advancements in renewable energy technologies that can improve efficiency, reduce costs, and enhance reliability.

For instance, J&K can explore the use of hydrogen fuel cells as an alternative to batteries for storing excess solar power. Dr B Satya Sekhar, Assistant Professor at IIT Jammu who is working on a collaborative research project with National Sun Yat-sen University Taiwan on this topic said: “Hydrogen fuel cells have several advantages over batteries such as higher energy density, longer life cycle, and lower environmental impact.”

J&K can also promote decentralized and community-based models of renewable energy generation that can empower local people and reduce dependence on external sources.

For example, J&K can support micro-hydel projects that can provide electricity to remote villages without affecting the ecology or displacing people. Mustafa Ali, Director of Kashmir Renewables Energy Private Limited who has been involved in several such projects said: “Micro-hydel projects are ideal for hilly areas where grid connectivity is poor or absent. They can also generate income and employment opportunities for local people.”

Himachal Pradesh in the private sector has set up 475 small hydroelectric projects to generate 1208 mws of electricity, with similar mountainous topography and network of rivulets like J&K. However, the file work of the 10 small hydroelectric projects that were identified in J&K more than 15 years ago has not been completed.

No figured list of grid-connected to solar

During his previous term in 2003, the then Chief Minister Mufti Sayeed directed the appropriate officers to promptly initiate work on the projects. However, these matters were once again disregarded when his term ended.

The erstwhile state of J&K, comprising Ladakh, had a solar power potential of 111.05 gw, and it is the second highest in the country after Rajasthan, which has a solar energy potential of 142 gw.

The country recently crossed the milestone of 5,000 mw in solar power capacity, with Rajasthan topping the list with a total commissioned capacity of 1264.35 mw, followed by Gujarat with 1024.15 mw.

J&K is not figured in the list where the states have grid-connected solar power projects as it has failed to generate energy through solar power plants.

In July 2014, the Centre's BJP-led NDA government announced in its maiden budget that it would take up four ultra mega solar power projects, including one in the Ladakh region. The government also set aside an amount of Rs 500 crore for these projects.

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