India witnessed its highest-ever solar power capacity addition in a quarter during the first three months of this year, government data shows.
India managed to add 4.6 gigawatts of new utility-scale solar power capacity between January and March 2018. The previous highest solar power capacity addition in a quarter was seen exactly one year back in Q1 2017 with the addition of 3.3 gigawatts.
The high solar power capacity addition was a direct result of the busy auction schedule India has seen at the central as well as the state levels in the last few quarters. As India continues to auction gigawatts of new solar capacity every month, this record could easily be surpassed in the coming quarters.
Slowdown in Renewable Energy
While the solar sector added its largest volume ever in Q1 2018, the overall renewable energy capacity added took a hit. Year-on-year, the renewable energy capacity addition in India dropped nearly 14%, from 7.2 gigawatts to 6.2 gigawatts.
The major reason for this decline is the sharp fall in wind energy capacity addition. Around 3.6 gigawatts of wind capacity was added in Q1 2017, which fell to just 1.2 gigawatts in Q1 2018. Quarter-on-quarter capacity addition was, however, encouraging. In Q4 2017 just 2.7 gigawatts of renewable energy capacity was added.
Notable capacity addition in the biopower sector helped shore up the total renewable energy capacity addition in Q1 2018. With around 7.5 gigawatts wind energy capacity auctioned in India so far, wind could be expected to have a larger contribution in the coming quarters.
Revival in Coal
The coal-based power sector witnessed a major revival, with the largest capacity being added in the last eight quarters. Around 4.2 gigawatts of coal-based power capacity was added in Q1 2018, up from 3.2 gigawatts in Q1 2017.
The coal-based power sector also broke the trend of capacity retirements in Q2 and Q3 2017. Interestingly, the net coal-based power capacity added in 2017 was around 4 gigawatts only. The average coal-based capacity addition in India between Q2 2016 and Q4 2017 was just 1.1 gigawatts.
India witnessed an addition of 12.2 gigawatts of coal-based capacity in Q1 2016 and saw a steep fall since then, up to Q1 2018. Capacity addition by private companies in the coal sector have taken a hit over the last few quarters due to subdued demand and alarming debt situation.