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Foreign investment expected to bolster India’s renewable energy transition

January 26, 2021


India’s goal of doubling renewable power by next year is getting a boost from international investors who see the massive market’s potential outweighing significant risks.

French oil major Total SA’s $2.5 billion investment in Adani Green Energy Ltd. last week is a sign that global companies increasingly under pressure to invest in environmental assets are eyeing India’s 1.3 billion energy users, despite a mounting debt at generation companies and attempts by some provinces to renege on power purchase contracts.

Foreign investments are key to meeting Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s target to nearly double renewable energy capacity by 2022 and raise it five-fold to 450 gigawatts over the next decade. The plan offers investment opportunities of $20 billion a year through 2030, Modi told investors at a gathering last year.

“For India, the Total-Adani deal can also be perceived as a reflection of increasing confidence among foreign investors in India’s power sector,” said Charanjit Singh, head of ESG research at consultant firm Acuity Knowledge Partners. “With an improvement in the commercial viability of the power distribution sector, more foreign investments in the space could be expected.”

India’s renewables industry should be a prime candidate for investors increasingly demanding products that comply with the Paris climate agreement. The country is expected to have the world’s second-largest clean energy fleet by 2050, and unlike No. 1 China, it isn’t dominated by state-owned giants. For investments to rise more, though, the country may need to fix its ailing power distribution sector. Power producers have been beset by delayed payments from provincial distribution utilities, which are often forced by local governments to sell power below cost.

In addition to Total, oil majors such as BP Plc and Malaysia’s Petroliam Nasional Bhd have invested in the sector, along with private equity and pension funds of countries including Canada and Singapore. India’s low per capita energy use, which is a third of the world average, holds promise of consistent demand growth.

[Rajesh Kumar Singh and Debjit Chakraborty]

More: India’s green energy goals boosted by return of foreign backers

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