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Targeting the solar bonza

Sentinel Digital DeskBy : Sentinel Digital Desk

  |  18 Jun 2015 12:00 AM GMT

Walking its talk to boost use of clean energy in India, the rendra Modi government has raised the target of solar power generation capacity to 1,00,000 MW (or 100 GW) in seven years. By 2022, the country is targeted to generate 40 GW through rooftop solar panels and 60 GW through large and medium scale solar power projects that will be connected to power grid. This decision by the Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs on Wednesday seeks to implement the commitment made by Prime Minister Modi last November to target 100 GW of solar power and 60 GW of wind power. In his picturesque way, he counted the ‘seven horses of energy’, mely coal, nuclear, hydro, gas, solar, wind and biogas, declaring that the country’s efforts should increasingly move towards the last three ‘horses’. To raise solar energy output five times, the cabinet committee also envisages an investment of around Rs. 6 lakh crore, planning to provide Rs 15,050 crore as capital subsidy in the first phase. With the United tions climate change conference later this year and the Paris climate change summit, India is siglling its firm intention to move away from coal and other fossil fuels to expand green energy sources.

The Intertiol Energy Agency (IEA) in its World Energy Outlook, 2015 report, has warned that global temperatures could rise by as much as 4.3 degrees Celsius by the end of the century, urging countries to improve their pledges on reducing carbon emissions. While lauding the Indian government’s greater efforts to go for clean and renewable energy, the IEA report has noted the country’s ‘large and growing population, its low but increasing levels of per capita energy consumption and high level of projected economic growth’ which will keep it on a high-carbon development path. The total world solar capacity is currently around 360 GW with Chi alone accounting for just over 40 GW. India has just 3 GW of installed solar capacity, which accounts for only over 1 per cent of the total installed capacity of 260 GW, as of January 2015. So in practical terms, the Indian government is planning a nearly 33-fold increase from the current solar capacity. Experts point out that even if the 100 GW solar target is met in seven years, it will still account for only 10 per cent of the country’s energy needs.

A sunlight-drenched country, India has an estimated solar potential of 750 GW. The outlook for this sector is sunny as well, with the technology rapidly improving and costs dropping. The renewable energy sector in India, primarily solar, could generate 1 million jobs. Solar electricity currently costs Rs 7 -11 per unit as compared to Rs 2.7-3.3 per unit from conventiol sources. But by 2022, solar energy in India could cost the same as other sources of electricity (thereby achieving grid parity). The question is — can India really scale up solar power generation rapidly enough to meet its cleaner climate commitments and drive to attain a healthy energy mix? The encouraging fact is that solar power plants can be built and installed faster than coal, hydropower or nuclear plants. While it requires 20-25 acres on an average to generate 1 MW of solar power, experts say that India can use its rooftops as well as wastelands and deserts to good effect. If the rendra Modi government succeeds in its push to boost manufacturing capacities for solar photovoltaic panels and attract foreign technology, the country can look forward to a solar bonza. And if Indian brains can come up with some breakthroughs in battery technology for storing solar power, this limitless energy may yet stand on its own one day, independent of conventiol sources of power.

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