India is set to miss its first national offshore wind target for 2022 and will find a 30GW ambition by 2030 “challenging”, said the deputy director general of the country’s National Institute of Wind Energy (NIWE).

Rajesh Katyal said 2022 “will be too tight” to hit the 5GW target set by the Indian government in mid-2018 in an effort to kick-start the offshore wind industry there.

“[The target] can be extended to 2023 or 2024, because we understand with the global experience that three years are required for the construction stage,” Katyal told the WindEurope Offshore industry event in Copenhagen, responding to a question from Recharge.

A request for proposals (RFP) to launch a tender for a first 1GW tender off the state of Gujarat, originally expected this year, is now not likely to happen until March 2020, a session on India at the event was told.

The NIWE official – whose agency helps plan India’s wind strategy under the Ministry of New and Renewable Energy – said of the 30GW 2030 target: “I understand it’s a challenging target, but I still think it’s doable,” claiming that the Indian sector would soon gather momentum once the first turbines were in the water.

Katyal said it made more sense to plan meticulously for the projects, removing as much risk for investors as possible, rather than prematurely launch a tender.

“Our first project will either kick off the sector, or the whole sector will collapse in India,” he said. “Even if we don’t achieve the target of 5GW and we do it in a systematic manner, that makes more sense.”

By early next year, two years of detailed Lidar wind data for the site of the 1GW Gujarat project will have been collected, with geotechnical and environmental information also available to prospective developers by then.

“Many people ask why the tender is not out. We should not be in a hurry – if we come up with a tender without doing the environmental studies we may end up back in square one,” said Katyal.

Analysts have questioned how realistic India’s offshore wind targets are ever since they were set, with the near-term goal seen as particularly ambitious.

What the Indian offshore sector does not lack is interest – an EOI process held in 2018 saw virtually every global player lay down a marker to participate in a first tender.

Tom Harries, senior wind analyst at Bloomberg New Energy Finance, said “there’s no rush for offshore wind in India right now”, pointing out that the country currently enjoys some of the world’s cheapest onshore wind and solar power prices.

But he said longer term the sector could play a big role in meeting India’s burgeoning power needs. According to BNEF estimates, “India will use more electricity than the whole of Europe by 2038, by 2045 more than the US”, said Harries.

“If you think beyond an arbitrary 2030 deadline there’s huge potential.”

Renewable energy targets are a live issue in India at the moment, with the government of Prime Minister Narendra Modi sharply rebuffing claims by market observers that its overarching goal of 100GW of solar and 60GW of wind won't be met.