The Patent in the Renewable Energy Sector

Introduction

Energy is a prerequisite requirement for driving all living forms on this planet. Non-conventional or renewable forms of energy are the most sought after forms of energy of all because of their naturally existing nature and replenishment. Renewable resources are a member of Earth’s natural environment and the largest components of its ecosphere. Because of this very nature, advancement in the sector of renewable energy is a fast-evolving technology area. The non-conventional energy sources consist of solar, thermal, wind, rain, waves, tides,  geothermal, hydro/marine, and bio-fuel. Innovation in wind, solar and other renewable power sector is booming worldwide. The market for the renewable energy sector has been increasing. This leads to competition and collaboration among private players. Research and development in this sector are accelerating over the years. To promote research and development, a patent provides an incentive to private players.

What is a Renewable Energy?

Renewable energy is the energy that is collected from natural sources or processes, which are naturally replenished on a human timescale, such as sunlight, wind, rain, tides, waves, and geothermal heat. Renewable energy often provides energy in four important areas: electricity generation, transportation, air and water heating/cooling, and rural (off-grid) energy services.

In simpler terms, a renewable energy source means sustainable energy – something that cannot run out or is endless, like the sun. India is among one of the countries with a large production of energy from renewable sources.

The most popular renewable energy sources are;

  1. Solar
  2. Wind
  3. Hydro
  4. Tidal
  5. Geothermal
  6. Biomass

Renewable energy at home;

The advantages of using renewable energy in a domestic setting are persuasive:

  • Cut the electricity bills – Once we’ve paid for the costs of installing a renewable energy system, we can become less reliant on the National Grid and the energy bills can be reduced.
  • Reduce the carbon footprint – Green, renewable sources of energy don’t release carbon dioxide or other harmful pollutants into the atmosphere. According to the Energy Saving Trust’s Solar panels page, a typical solar PV system could save around 1.5 – 2 tonnes of carbon per year.

Renewable energy facts:

  • Romans were the very first to use geothermal energy to heat their homes, with warm air moving inside walls and under floors.
  • Just one wind turbine can generate enough electricity to power 1,400 homes.
  • Solar power may account for the world’s leading source of power by 2050.
  • In 1921, Albert Einstein was awarded the Nobel Prize in Physics for his discovery of the photoelectric effect – which led to the invention of solar panels.

According to the World Wide Fund, the whole world could get all the power it needs from renewable resources by 2050, ending our reliance on fossil fuels and other depleting resources – but only if the right financial, political and societal decisions are made, and fast.

Renewable Energy in India

The renewable energy sector in India is the fourth most attractive renewable energy market in the world. As of 31st March 2020, 35.86 per cent of India’s installed electricity generation capacity is from renewable sources, generating 21.22 per cent of total utility electricity in the country.

In the Paris Agreement, the Government of India has committed to an Intended Nationally Determined Contributions target of achieving 40% of its total electricity generation from non-fossil fuel sources by 2030 and 175 GW of renewable energy capacity by 2022. India is aiming for even more ambitious target of 57% of the total electricity capacity from renewable sources by 2027 in the Central Electricity Authority’s strategy blueprint. The Government of India has also set a target for installation of Rooftop Solar Projects (RTP) of 40 GW by 2022 including installation on the rooftop of houses. These targets and marks would place India among the world leaders in renewable energy use and place India at the centre of its “Sunshine Countries” International Solar Alliance project promoting the growth and development of solar power internationally to over 120 countries.

India was the first country in the world to set up a ministry of non-conventional energy resources (Ministry of New and Renewable Energy),in the early 1980s, and its public sector enterprise the Solar Energy Corporation of India is responsible for the development of solar energy industry in India. Hydroelectricity is administered separately by the Ministry of Power and not included in the Ministry of New and Renewable Energy (MNRE) targets.

Laws related to Renewable Energy

The purpose of the National Renewable Energy Act, 2015, is to promote the production of energy through the use of renewable energy sources following climate, environment and macroeconomic considerations to reduce dependence on fossil fuels, ensure the security of supply and reduce emissions of CO2 and other greenhouse gases.

The Constitution of India specifies the distribution of executive and legislative powers between the Union and States. ‘Electricity’ is listed in the concurrent list (Entry 38 of List III) under the Constitution of India and the Central/Union Parliament and state legislatures have concurrent powers to enact laws on this subject. Therefore, both the Union and state legislatures can enact laws on ‘electricity’. However, the laws enacted by the Union Parliament will override the laws enacted by the state legislature in the event of inconsistency or conflict. The Electricity Act, 2003 enacted by the Union Parliament provides the framework for generation, distribution, transmission, trading and use of electricity in India.

The Central Electricity Authority is a statutory organisation that stipulates, inter alia:

  • the technical standards for construction of electric lines, electrical plants and connectivity to the grid;
  • safety requirements for construction, operation and maintenance of electrical plants & electric lines; and
  • grid standards for operation and maintenance of transmission lines.

The Ministry of Power (MOP) is the administrative department of the Government of India primarily responsible for the development of electrical energy in the country. The Ministry of New and Renewable Energy (MNRE) is the nodal agency of the Government of India for promotion of renewable energy, both grid-connected and off-grid and it has designated different institutes or agencies to implement the schemes such as Solar Energy Corporation of India Limited (SECI) and National Thermal Power Corporation Limited (NTPC Limited). Indian Renewable Energy Development Agency (IREDA) is a non-banking financial institution under the administrative control of the Ministry of New and Renewable Energy, which provides financial assistance for renewable energy and energy-efficiency projects.

The Electricity Act 2003, the National Electricity Policy 2005 and the Tariff Policy 2016 encourage private sector participation in renewable energy through measures such as fixing renewable purchase obligations (RPOs) for certain entities which are mandated to comply with RPOs.

Amendments to the Tariff Policy were proposed in May 2018 which included amendments in provisions related to the generation, transmission and distribution of electricity. The Draft Electricity (Amendment) Rules 2018 propose various changes concerning the Captive Generating Plants.

 Patent Space

Countries have realized the significance of renewable energy and have started using eco-friendly resources to meet their energy demands.  India is the first country to create a separate ministry of new and renewable energy. In India, the renewable energy has been mentioned in various program and policy framework such as National Electricity Policy, National Tariff Policy, National Action Plan on Climate Change, Jawaharlal Nehru Solar Mission, Accelerated Depreciation (AD) and Generation Based Incentive (GBI), and National Offshore Wind Energy Policy.

Innovation is indispensable for the accelerated deployment of Renewable Energy Technologies (RETs) that will play a key role in addressing the issues of energy security, energy access and climate change.

Many researchers prefer to protect and make the best use of their inventions in the global market. Be it from patent licensing to enjoying exclusive rights on the invention scientists apply for patents. As a result, patent filing has become a crucial step in bringing an invention to the public. The number of patents filed in a sector shows the investments made and innovation trends in the industry.

Patents can play a prominent role in the entire technology life cycle, from initial Research & Development Department to the market introduction (demonstration to diffusion) stages, where competitive technologies can be safeguarded with patents and licensed out to third parties to expand financial opportunity. A patent is a right granted to a patent holder by a state, or by the regional office acting for several states, which allows the patent holder, for a finite or limited period, to exclude others from commercially exploiting his invention without his authorisation. Patents play a crucial role as an incentive for innovation in market-based economies. They permit technology investors to capture the value of inventions.

International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) is mandated to assist governments in energy planning for more efficient and efficacious Renewable Energy Technology (RET) and innovation strategies. To fulfil its mandate, IRENA needs to play a crucial role in providing accurate and up-to-date technical information including patent information. IRENA can help disseminate patent information so that it can be used by policymakers for the assessment of Renewable Energy Technology, especially in developing countries. IRENA has been working with World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) and European Patent Office (EPO) since 2011 to explore ways of enhancing the use of patent information to assist Renewable Energy Technology assessments for policymakers, in particular those in developing countries.

International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) can play a key role in pooling existing efforts and information by various patents databases into a single global platform rather than developing its patent search system. In this manner, IRENA can guide users to different sources of patent information, including various patent databases, information on licensing, and case studies from around the world on how patents can be used to enhance innovation for Renewable Energy Technologies.

  • In wind technology, Denmark has the highest percentage share of claimed priority patents, followed by Thailand, Spain, Ukraine and Greece.
  • In the hydro/marine sector, Brazil features as the fourth-highest patentee in percentage terms. Portugal and Norway occupy the top positions.
  • In bio-fuels, Ukraine has the highest percentage share.

As of 30th April 2020, the total installed capacity for Renewable is 87+ GW with the following break up:

  1. Wind power: 38 GW
  2. Solar Power: 35 GW
  3. BioPower: 10 GW
  4. Small Hydro Power: 5 GW

Wind energy capacity in India has increased by 1.7 times in the last four years. Solar power capacity has increased by more than 11 times in the last 5 years from 2.6 GW to 28.18 GW in March 2019.

Conclusion

India is one of the largest and most ambitious renewable capacity expansion programs in the world. The Government is committed to increased use of clean energy sources and is already undertaking various large-scale sustainable power projects and promoting green energy heavily. Moreover, renewable energy has the potential to create many employment opportunities at all levels, especially in rural areas. The Ministry of New and Renewable Energy has set an ambitious target to set up renewable energy capacities to the tune of 175 GW by 2022 of which about 100 GW is planned for solar, 60 for wind and other for hydro and bio. India’s renewable energy sector is expected to attract investments of up to US$ 80 billion in the next 4 years. About 5,000 Compressed Biogas plants will be set up across India by 2023. It is expected that by the year 2040, around 49 per cent of the total electricity will be generated by the renewable energy, as more efficient batteries will be used to store electricity which will further cut the solar energy cost by 66 per cent as compared to the current cost. Use of renewable in place of coal will save India Rs 54,000 crores (US$ 8.43 billion) annually. The renewable energy will account for 55 per cent of the total installed power capacity by 2030.

Questions

Ques 1. What is a Patent?

Answer. A Patent is a statutory right for an invention granted for a limited period to the patentee by the Government, in exchange of full disclosure of his invention for excluding others, from making, using, selling, importing the patented product or process for producing that product for those purposes without his consent.

Ques 2.  What is the term of every patent in India?

Answer. The term of every patent in India is twenty years from the date of filing the patent application. In case of an application filed under the Patent Cooperation Treaty (PCT), the term of the patent will be 20 years from the international filing date accorded under PCT.

Ques 3. Does Indian Patent give protection worldwide?

Answer. No. Patent protection is a territorial right and therefore it is effective only within the territory of India. There is no concept of a global patent.

However, applying in India enables the applicant to file a corresponding application for the same invention in convention countries or under PCT, within or before the expiry of twelve months from the filing date in India. Patents should be obtained in each country where the applicant requires protection of his invention.

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