U.S. Supports Social Innovation in India for Solar Power

Leonardo Da Vinci predicted a social innovation solar industrialisation as far back as in 1447, and on cue, India is set to become a booming solar energy market, overtaking Europe. Europe has been the largest solar power for years, though its growth has now slowed. India is set to develop into a very substantial market that should start to add more than three gigawatts of solar annually by 2016. Solar power is measured in a standard metric measure of kilowatts which is equivalent to 1,000 watts. So, the megawatt is a million watts or the equivalent of 1,000 kilowatts, and the gigawatt is the equivalent of 1,000 megawatts, or one thousand million watts.

Up until two years ago, India didn’t really have a solar market. It was only in 2010 that the country’s Ministry of New and Renewable Energy launched the Jawaharlal Nehru National Solar Mission, with a goal of developing 20,000 megawatt of solar energy in three phases by 2022. The government has started to invest in its own social innovation solar program and is thinking big, setting an ambitious goal. India’s solar electric production should reach 141 megawatts by the end of this year, 2011. This output number may not seem high considering that countries like Germany and Italy install gigawatts of solar power each year.

However, the weak European financial market has made it difficult for project developers in Europe find investors. Changes in social innovation solar incentives in Italy and Germany caused uncertainties earlier this year and prompted developers to hold off on completing installations. Added to this shift in the market, India is now becoming a new destination for American manufacturers.

Promoting social innovation in solar energy makes sense for this country that is hungry for power, and that also needs to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions (GHG) as it is among the world’s top three producers of GHG. About 80 percent of India’s electricity comes from power plants that burn fossil fuels such as coal and natural gas. Moreover, about 25 percent of India’s population has no access to electricity, according to the report, “World Energy Outlook 2011.

The U. S. government has been a playing a key role as a financier of social innovation solar power projects in India. The Export-Import Bank of the United States has announced seven loans or loan guarantees totalling $180.1 million so far in 2011 for India-bound projects. However, whether India will be able to successfully develop a thriving solar manufacturing industry is still a question, though its potential of becoming a significant market for solar energy is high as is its potential for developing other renewable power sources, such as geothermal and wind power. However, what could hinder its progress is cost concerns, and an underdeveloped transmission and distribution network.

Photo Credit: Jeremy Vandel

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