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Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and French President Emmanuel Macron during the inauguration of a solar power plant in Uttar Pradesh state, India, on March 12, 2018. Photo: Ludovic Marin/AFP via Getty Images

In 2014, well before the Paris Agreement, India’s newly elected central government dramatically raised its Renewable Energy (RE) targets to quadruple RE capacity by 2022, with almost all the gains to come from solar and wind. India aims to simultaneously green its energy supply, meet rising demand and tap into global capital for emerging technology.

Where it stands: A midway status update on the targets and achievements indicates India is behind schedule. Lack of finance is often cited as a bottleneck, but there are other structural challenges India will have to confront in scaling up its RE.

The first major challenge is that while the targets are set top-down, the real action happens at the state level, and the state utilities that buy RE are taking losses, which represents an enormous counter-party risk for RE developers.

The second challenge is the inherently intermittent nature of RE, whose nominal costs are relatively inexpensive. But when system-level costs (e.g., those of transmission and other generators that have to balance the grid) are considered, RE costs increase. Today, these hidden or system-level costs are more than 50% higher than figures typically circulated in the press. This is before accounting for the eventual need to add storage technologies — since RE’s output is not just variable but often doesn’t coincide with grid demand, which peaks in the evening — and the stress higher RE will place on the rest of the coal-heavy system.

With better grid management, higher transmission (important, as most RE is concentrated in a handful of states) and demand shifting to match supply, RE’s system-level costs should come down.

The bottom line: India may take longer to reach its targets, and expectations should be realistic. However, growth still remains impressive, and even with a delay, India is on track to meeting its Paris commitments.

Dr. Rahul Tongia is a Fellow with Brookings India, where he leads the energy and sustainability group.

Go deeper

Updated 40 mins ago - World

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Members of the Taliban movement patrol Kabul's airport in September. Photo: Valery Sharifulin/TASS via Getty Images

The Taliban have "killed or forcibly disappeared" over 100 former members of Afghanistan's security forces since the group took power in August, a Human Rights Watch report published Tuesday found.

Why it matters: Former military members and officials from the ousted government, activists and other Taliban critics are facing peril amid executions driven by revenge — despite Taliban promises of an "amnesty" with no retributions, notes the New York Times, which first reported the news.

4 hours ago - World

Barbados becomes a republic, replacing U.K. queen with president

Combination images of Dame Sandra Mason, president of Barbados, and Britain's Prince Charles at her swearing-in ceremony in Bridgetown, Barbados, late Monday.

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Why it matters: Mason replaced Britain's Queen Elizabeth as head of state Tuesday — removing the country's final remaining colonial tie to the U.K. almost 400 years after the first British ships arrived in Barbados.

Right-wingers making McCarthy sweat for future Speaker post

House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy stands with his Republican colleagues outside the House on Nov. 17. Photo: Stefani Reynolds/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Right-wing elements in the Republican Party are complicating House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy's attempts to become the next speaker of the House should the GOP take back the majority in 2022.

Why it matters: While McCarthy has worked carefully to build trust among the conservatives who tanked his chances at clinching the speakership in 2015, they're still circling ahead of the next Speaker vote in January 2023.