Sunrise in India

On 3 Aug 2009, the Indian Prime Minister’s Council approved in principle a Rs 91,684 crore (i.e. 1 trillion rupees or $21 billion; 1 crore = 10 million in Indian numbering system) Solar Mission over a five-year period ending March 2012 to make India a global leader in solar power. The Solar Mission is one of the seven missions proposed under the National Action Plan on Climate Change which was unveiled by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh last year 2008 promising efforts to tackle climate change at the domestic level.

An investment of 150 billion rupees ($3 billion) has already been made in the first 2 years of the five-year plan period that runs from April 1, 2007 to March 31, 2012 which could generate about 3,000 megawatts (MW) of power, almost half of it from wind energy alone. Domestic and foreign companies such as Tata Group and Reliance Industries as well as state-run utilities are among hundreds of companies vying for a stake in India’s emerging green energy sector. Companies that could benefit include Tata BP Solar (a joint venture between Tata Power and BP’s solar unit, BP Solar), Bharat Heavy Electricals, and Lanco Infratech. See the recent news on 10 Aug 2009 that Indian infrastructure developer ACME Group planned to beat eSolar on cost of solar thermal in India by using a license from eSolar to build 1 GW of power plants, with the first slated for March 2010.

But the global financial crisis may have slowed investments and India could find it difficult to meet its target of generating 14,500 MW of green power by 2012. India aims to generate 25,000 megawatts of power from renewable energy over the next four years, more than double the current generation level of 12,000 MW. About 8.8% of India’s installed capacity of about 150 gigawatts is renewable-energy based, comprising mainly wind, small hydroelectric, biomass and solar energy projects.

Four-hundred million Indians have no electricity and the solar power would help spark the country’s development and end the power cuts that plague the nation. India has taken significant strides in wind energy production thanks to a shift in government policy. Spain, for instance, added 3GW of solar power capacity in just one year in 2008.

Mission Targets (summarized from all sources):
1. Generate 20GW by 2020, 100GW by 2030 and 200GW by 2050 from solar energy alone.
2. Convert government buildings to solar power by 2012.
3. Launch a subsidised finance scheme to encourage 20 million households to switch to solar by 2020 and this will save 42 million tonnes of CO2 emissions annually.
4. Achieve parity with coal-based thermal power generation by 2030 after which expansion of solar-generated power, it hopes, would face no technical or cost constraints.
5. The government plans to create a solar fund with initial investment of $1.1 billion and build it up by taxing fossil fuels and the power generated from them 0.1 cents for every kWh produced. By 2030, it hopes to reduce the cost of electricity from photovoltaic cells to around 10 cents per kWh, matching the price of electricity derived from conventional fuels.
6. Existing thermal power plants must generate at least 5% of their capacity from solar power.
7. Producers connected to the grid will be able to sell their excess solar electricity to utilities; solar-power projects get a 10-year tax holiday; and other ‘carrots’ for the industry include the duty-free import of raw materials and priority bank loans.
8. An autonomous solar-energy authority will be created to execute the mission, but the existing solar-energy centre near New Delhi will be upgraded into an ‘apex research institute’ to coordinate solar-research centres across the country and promote foreign collaboration. The mission document recommends introducing solar-energy courses to the Indian Institutes of Technology, and creating a fellowship programme to train 100 Indian scientists a year in world-class institutions.

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