February 13, 2009

India’s $19billion Solar Mission to generate 20,000MW by 2020 receives nod of approval

NEW DELHI: In a step forward, the Solar Mission under the National Action Plan on Climate Change got an in-principle nod from the PM Manmohan Singh, with a target of 20,000MW (20GW) solar power generated by 2020 being accepted.

The Solar Mission is one of the seven missions proposed under the National Action Plan on Climate Change which was unveiled last year, promising India’s efforts to tackle climate change at the domestic level. The Solar Mission provides a detailed road map demonstrative of India’s serious intent to become a global leader in Solar Power within the next two decades.

The plan covers both grid and off-grid solar energy generation and distribution. In the first stage, the draft envisages generating 1-1.5 GW of solar power by 2012, 6-7 GW by 2017 and 20 GW (installed) by 2020. It calls for using 40-50 million sq metres of surface area in domestic, industrial and commercial areas.

The government aims to achieve it by providing incentives to cut the cost of development and deployment of solar panels. The aim is bring down the cost of solar energy from Rs15 to Rs4-5/ kWh from Rs3.5kWh base 2009 and achieve parity with coal by 2030 (Rs2kWh). The plan is expected to help offer lighting to 3 million households by 2012.

Parliamentary members stated that “While keeping an ‘ambitious’ target the solar mission should be built within an ‘enabling framework’ emerging from international negotiations, It would be important to demand technological and financial support from the international community under the UN negotiations, for such a huge target for clean energies due to the uncertainty of the costs.”

The plan calls for setting up a statutory solar authority under the ministry of new & renewable energy. It will have three verticals _ finance, technology & tariff, special project. The body will particularly focus on installation of solar collectors in hospitals, hotels and government buildings.

‘‘The solar mission can be India’s response to the global climate change logjam. It will make India’s position stronger in the negotiations. If India can do so much unilaterally, imagine what India can achieve if financing and clean technology support from rich countries come through. It’s the right answer at the opportune time,’’ says Siddharth Pathak, climate & energy campaigner, Greenpeace India.

The solar energy industry in India has undoubtedly gained momentum and should be able to keep pace with the government’s aim of achieving 10% of the country’s total electricity requirements by 2012. India already possesses a balanced eco-system for the PV industry, a high-tech manufacturing base and skilled labour sufficient to make it a booming industry. Annual PV production has already reached over 300 MW, with about 85% being exported.

Key facts about India’s 20GW Solar Power plans

The $19 billion “National Solar Mission” plan spread over 30 years aims to scale up solar power generation from nothing at present to 20 GW by 2020. The plan has a “near term” target of 100 megawatts, and 100 GW by 2030, or 10-12 percent of total power generation capacity estimated for that year.

Once implemented, the project will ensure large-scale deployment of solar generated power for both grid connected as well as distributed and decentralized off-grid provision of commercial energy services.

India says it could cut about 42 million tonnes of carbon dioxide emissions with its new solar plan. An estimated 20 million solar lights are estimated to save 1 billion litres of kerosene per annum by 2020.
Solar-powered equipment and applications will be mandatory for hospitals, hotels and government buildings, and villages and small towns will be encouraged with micro financing.

The plan also outlines a system of paying households for any surplus power from solar panels fed back into the grid. The target would be to provide access to lighting for 3 million households by 2012.