Renewable energy in India: an analysis of the regulatory environment and evolving policy trends

India emerged as a key player in the recent international climate talks in Paris. On the global stage, India reiterated its commitment towards clean energy and reducing carbon emissions. India’s increased thrust on renewable energy is outlined in the 2015 national budget, which set a five-fold increase in renewable energy targets to achieve 175 GW by 2022. This comprises 100 GW solar, 60 GW wind, 10 GW biomass and 5 GW small hydropower capacity, supported by a substantial budgetary allocation. The existing generation capacity is dominated by conventional coal-fired thermal power (211 GW as of May, 2016, 70% of total capacity).State distribution companies (Discoms) are by far the largest purchaser of electricity, including that from renewable energy sources. Therefore, the ability of the Discoms to purchase such power lies at the heart of the success of the national level directional shift from conventional to renewable power. This paper proposes to analyse the existing constitutional and regulatory framework within which Discoms and other key stakeholders in the renewable power sector operate. The implications of the recently proposed amendments to the Electricity Act, 2003 (Electricity Act), the National Tariff Policy and provisions of the Draft Renewable Energy Act will be discussed in detail. A discussion on renewable energy is incomplete without an understanding of the legislative and judicial trends that govern the Renewable Purchase Obligation (RPO) imposed on Discoms. The paper offers an insight into the perspectives of Discoms, regulators and governments on RPO compliance. Further, the larger debate surrounding electricity sector reform and its implications for the renewable power sector have been analysed.