Renewable Energy - UPSC (Science & Technology) Notes

By Sudheer Kumar K|Updated : November 6th, 2020

Renewable Sources of Energy is a very important topic in UPSC IAS Mains GS Paper-III (Science & Technology). In this article, we will be discussing a brief introduction of Renewable energy sources and the latest updates regarding the potential and installed capacity of renewables.

Renewable Sources of Energy

What are the different types of Renewable Energy sources?

Renewable energy is energy that is collected from renewable resources, which are naturally replenished on a human timescale, including carbon-neutral sources like sunlight, wind, tides, waves, and geothermal heat etc.

1. Solar Energy

  • Converting solar radiation into electricity through different technologies, majorly photovoltaic and concentrated photovoltaic for commercial purpose.
  • Potential: Recent estimates show that India’s solar potential is greater than 750 GW
  • Goal: 100 GW from solar by 2022; 479 GW of solar PV by 2047
  • Installed Capacity: From 2014 to June 2020, the solar power installed capacity of India has increased from 2.6 Giga Watts (GW) to 36 GW.
  • Variable – as one cannot control the time for which the sunshine.

2. Wind Energy

  • Wind flow can be used to rotate wind turbines and produce electricity. Higher the wind speed, greater the power produced.
  • Potential: Recent estimates announced that the wind potential is 302 GW (actual could be higher than 1000 GW).
  • Goal: India Energy Security Scenarios 2047 show a possibility of achieving a high of 410 GW of wind.
  • Installed Capacity: 38 GW as on Sep 2020
  • Challenges: Variability (as one cannot control the time the wind blows) and unpredictability.

3. Small Hydro

  • It is a conventional renewable source.
  • Small hydro systems are hydroelectric power installations that typically produce up to 50 MW of power. They are often used on small rivers or as a low-impact development on larger rivers.
  • Goal: 5 GW by 2022.
  • Installed: 4.7GW as on Sep 2020
  • Challenges: displacement of local communities etc.

4. BioEnergy

  • Bioenergyrefers to electricity and gas that is generated from organic matter, known as 
  • Potential: about18,000 MW – 18 GW.
  • Goal: 10GW by 2022
  • Installed Capacity: 10 GW as on Sept 2020.
  • Biomass power & cogeneration programme is implemented with the main objective of promoting technologies for optimum use of the country’s biomass resources for grid power generation. 
  • Biomass materials used for power generation include bagasse, rice husk, straw, cotton stalk, coconut shells, soya husk, de-oiled cakes, coffee waste, jute wastes, and groundnut shells, sawdust etc. 

5. Tidal Energy

  • Tidal energy is harnessed by converting energy from tides into electricity.
  • Potential: According to the estimate, India has a potential of 8GW of tidal energy.
  • This includes:
    • 7,000 MW in the Gulf of Cambay in Gujarat,
    • 1,200 MW in the Gulf of Kutch
    • 100 MW in the Gangetic delta in the Sunderbans region of West Bengal

6. Wave Energy

  • Wave Energy is the transport and capture of energy by ocean surface waves.
  • The energy captured is then used for all different purposes like electricity generation.
  • Potential: estimated around 40-60 GW.
  • Vizhinjam wave energy plant was the world's first wave power plant working on oscillating water column (OWC) technology in Kerala.
  • Challenges: Commercial viability

7. Geothermal Energy

  • Energy is produced from thermal energy stored inside the earth.
  • The steam trapped in rocks is routed through a pipe to a turbine and used to generate electricity. Ideal places are regions with hot springs and volcanoes.


India’s INDC Renewable Energy (non-fossil fuel resources) target

  • India’s Intended Nationally Determined Contribution (INDC) aims to base 40% of the total installed power generation capacity on non-fossil fuel resources by 2030.
  • This target would be achieved with international support of technology transfer and financing.


What are India’s Renewable Energy (RE) targets?

  • Government of India’s made an ambitious target of achieving 175GW of RE by the year 2022 that marks 75 years of our independence.
  • This includes:
    • 100 GW from solar,
    • 60 GW from wind,
    • 10 GW from bio-power
    • 5 GW from small hydro-power


What are the benefits of Renewable Energy (RE)?

Then there are environmental benefits (less pollution), social benefits (local employment opportunities) and investment inflows, which may need to be monetized to assess the complete range of benefits.


What are the Renewable Energy Installed capacities (as on Sep 2020)?

Renewable Source

Goal by 2022 (in GigaWatt)

Installed Capacity (in GigaWatt)










Small Hydro



Others (Waste to Power)



Total Installed Capacity




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