Renewable Energy and Land Use in India: A Vision to Facilitate Sustainable Development
Global Lands, The Nature Conservancy, 117 E. Mountain Ave, Suite 201, Fort Collins, CO 80524, USA
India Program, The Nature Conservancy, Link Road, Lajpat Nagar Part III, New Delhi 110024, India
Center for Study of Science, Technology and Policy, No. 18 & 19, 10th Cross, Mayura Street, Papanna Layout, Nagashettyhalli (RMV II Stage), Bengaluru 560094, India
Authors to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Sustainability 2020, 12(1), 281; https://doi.org/10.3390/su12010281
Received: 25 November 2019 / Revised: 15 December 2019 / Accepted: 19 December 2019 / Published: 30 December 2019
(This article belongs to the Section Energy Sustainability)
India has committed to reduce emissions with a goal to increase renewable energy production to 175 gigawatts (GW) by 2022. Achieving this objective will involve rapidly increasing the deployment of solar and wind energy, while at the same time addressing the related challenges of the financing requirements, environment impacts, and power grid integration. Developing energy on lands degraded by human activities rather than placing new infrastructure within natural habitats or areas of high production agriculture would reduce cumulative impacts and minimize land use conflicts. We estimated that converted lands have the potential capacity of 1789 GW across India, which is >10 times the 2022 goals. At the same time, the total land footprint needed to meet India’s 2022 renewable energy target is large, ranging from ~55,000 to 125,000 km2, which is roughly the size of Himachal Pradesh or Chhattisgarh, respectively. If renewable energy is advanced with the singular aim of maximizing resource potential, approximately 6700–11,900 km2 of forest land and 24,100–55,700 km2 of agricultural land could be impacted. Subsidies and incentive programs aimed at promoting low-impact renewable energy deployment and establishing mitigation obligations that raise costs for projects that create land-impacts could improve the public support for renewable energy.