India talking big on solar power

By Maura Forrest

June 25, 2015

India has multiplied its solar energy target by five, and is now aiming for a solar capacity of 100 gigawatts by 2022.

Meeting that goal will require major growth beyond the nation’s current solar capacity, which hovers around 4.5 gigawatts.

The government’s target under the Jawaharlal Nehru National Solar Mission is 40 gigawatts of rooftop solar power and 60 gigawatts of medium- and large-scale solar projects. The initiative is expected to cost $100 billion USD.

“Solar power can contribute to the long term energy security of India, and reduce dependence on fossil fuels that put a strain on foreign reserves and the ecology as well,” according to a government news release.

The 100-gigawatt target is ambitious, and may prove difficult to achieve. India added just one gigawatt of solar capacity to its grid in 2013. A recent consultancy report estimated that the country might realistically install 31 gigawatts of solar power by 2019, which would leave it well shy of the new goal.

But India is attracting some big investors.

This week, Japan’s SoftBank Corp announced a $20-billion investment in solar projects in India, in partnership with India’s Bharti Enterprises and Taiwan’s Foxconn. The companies have agreed to a minimum commitment of 20 gigawatts of solar capacity.

“India has two times the sunshine [of] Japan. The cost of construction of the solar park is half of Japan. Twice the sunshine, half the cost, that means four times the efficiency,” said Softbank Chief Executive Masayoshi Son at a news conference, as reported by Reuters.

India plans to provide subsidies for solar power development, but is looking to independent power producers for further investment.

The government may also approach international sources like the Green Climate Fund, a $10-billion fund intended to redistribute money from developed to developing countries to help them mitigate and adapt to climate change.

Canada committed $300 million to the fund last fall, after having previously declined to contribute anything.

But, as of March 2015, only a few countries had actually signed up to transfer money to the fund, and Canada was not among them. Their contributions totalled only $100 million of the $10 billion pledged.



Photo Credit: Knutte-Erik Helle