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India Lacks Solar Waste Handling Policy

Context:

The International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) estimated that the global photovoltaic waste will touch 78 million tonnes by 2050, with India expected to be one of the top five generators of such waste.

Relevance:

GS III- Environment and Ecology, GS II- Government policies and Interventions

Dimensions of the article:
  1. Details
  2. Solar waste management by other countries-
  3. About IRENA

Details:

  • While India ramps up its solar power capacity, the nation does not yet have a firm policy on managing waste that results from used solar panels or from the manufacturing process.
  • India currently considers solar waste a part of electronic waste and does not account for it separately.
  • Minister for New and Renewable Energy (MNRE) said a committee had been constituted under the chairmanship of the Ministry’s Secretary to propose an action plan to evolve a “circular economy” in solar panel, through reuse/recycling of waste generated.
  • There was no commercial raw material recovery facility for solar e-waste operational in India, but a pilot facility for solar panel recycling and material recovery had been set up by a private company in Gummidipoondi in Tamil Nadu.
  • India has set a target of producing 100 GW of solar energy by 2022.
  • The cumulative capacity of grid-connected solar photovoltaic (PV) installations is around 40 GW and of the current capacity, about 35.6 GW, is generated from ground-mounted plants and 4.4 GW from rooftop solar.

What is solar waste?

  • It is the electronic waste (e-waste) generated by discarded solar panels and Photo-voltaic (PV) devices.
  • Photovoltaic (PV) devices contain semiconducting materials that convert sunlight into electrical energy. 
  • A single PV device is known as a cell, and these cells are connected together in chains to form larger units known as modules or panels. 
  • Although up to 90% of the components are recyclable, many PV modules contain heavy metals such as cadmium, copper, lead, antimony or selenium, and when they are taken out of service or broken, they may be classified as hazardous waste.
  • Solar panels have a life of 20-25 years, and it is likely that India will be faced with solar waste problems by the end of this decade. 
Solar waste management by other countries-
  • In Europe, the Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment (WEEE) Directive of the EU imposes responsibility for the disposal of waste on the manufacturers or distributors who introduce or install such equipment for the first time.
  • The UK also has an industry-managed “take-back and recycling scheme”, where all PV producers will need to register and submit data related to products used for the residential solar market (B2C) and non-residential market.
  • While there are no federal statutes or regulations in the United States that talk about recycling, there are some states who have proactively defined policies to address end-of-life PV module management.
  • The federal government in Australia has acknowledged the concern and announced a $2 million grant as part of the National Product Stewardship Investment Fund to develop and implement an industry-led product stewardship scheme for PV systems.

About IRENA

  • IRENA has 150 member nations with Headquarters in Abu Dhabi.
  • The International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) is an intergovernmental organisation that supports countries in their transition to a sustainable energy future, and serves as the principal platform for international cooperation, a centre of excellence, and a repository of policy, technology, resource and financial knowledge on renewable energy.
  • IRENA promotes the widespread adoption and sustainable use of all forms of renewable energy, including bioenergy, geothermal, hydropower, ocean, solar and wind energy in the pursuit of sustainable development, energy access, energy security and low-carbon economic growth and prosperity.
  • IRENA is an official United Nations observer.

-Source: The Hindu

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September 2022
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