Ministry of New and Renewable Energy

India’s Solar Ambitions Could Put It in the Lead

(3BL Media/Justmeans) - Last week, we wrote about the Lima conference and some of the challenges that were faced there. Among these were the fact that certain developing countries were reluctant to make commitments that they felt would adversely impact their economic growth. One of these was India. Indeed, India was heavily pushing for, and successfully achieved, some revisions to the terms of the agreement that included the principle of “common but differentiated responsibilities.”

This, says Indian Environmental Minister Prakash Javadekar. "gives enough space for the developing world to grow and take appropriate nationally determined steps.”

This bottoms-up approach is a departure from the original top-down target setting mechanism. It leaves unanswered the question of the total carbon reduction, in essence trusting that what the developing countries say is the best they can do, will be good enough.

There is some reassurance on that note, with some rather bullish announcements regarding India’s solar initiative. The program was first introduced in 2010 with a target of 20GW by 2022. The announcement was met with skepticism; indeed, in the first years, performance has lagged expectations with only a little over 3 GW installed as of this past March, about 85% of which is grid-connected. However, things seem ready to take off after the election of Narendra Modi as Prime Minister and the decision not to impose tariffs on the import of American and Chinese solar panels.

Mercom Capital is now estimating additional installations of 1.8GW for the year 2015.  Says Mercom CEO, Raj Prabhu, “The Indian solar industry is visibly upbeat since the elections and especially after getting past the anti-dumping case.” Also contributing to the optimism are “recent cancellations of coal mining licenses by the Supreme Court amid rising coal imports and increasing costs, and continuing power shortages.”

To date, most of the progress has been state driven. Gujarat is in the lead with the highest installed capacity 916.4MW, followed by Rajasthan 734.1MW. Those two states with their incentive programs, account for roughly half the national total.

Now the Central Government is stepping, with the Ministry of New and Renewable Energy (MNRE) announcing their own interim goal of 15 GW by 2019. This will be achieved with a series of huge utility scale 500MW to 1 GW solar parks. They also announced 12 locations in seven states where additional “ultra-mega solar projects” could be built. These alone could account for 20 GW.

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