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New government could bring solar revolution to India

Date
20 March 2014
New government could bring solar revolution to India

NEW DELHI: India’s aspiring prime minister Narendra Modi has shown a clear interest in growing the country’s solar markets, which could curb blackouts and kick-start the economy.

Modi, Chief Minister of Gujarat is currently leading India’s election polls according to CNN-IBN. Although he is yet to share specific details of his party’s policies, he has spoken publicly about his support for renewables, hinting at the possibility his party would grow the industry if he wins the election in May.

According to newswire Bloomberg, at a rally in February he said: “We have to focus on generating more power from our abundant renewable energy resources. The time has arrived for a saffron revolution, and the color of energy is saffron. God has showered our country with an abundance of renewable energy. [...] If these renewable resources were exploited properly, we wouldn’t have required mining coal or spending so much on importing crude and petroleum products.”

Modi has also been spotlighted as a solar advocate in national media since introducing the country’s first incentives for large-scale solar in the state of Gujarat in 2009.

Blackouts

A transformation of India's energy infrastructure to cleaner, more reliable sources is long overdue. With an aging infrastructure that struggles to keep up with its booming population, the country suffers from regular power blackouts.

In 2012 India experienced the world’s largest blackout, which affected 670 million people-–almost 10% of the world’s population--and crippled the economy. Many are now questioning how India will handle the skyrocketing energy demands that come with the 200 million people that are expected to enter its ‘middle class’ bracket by 2020.

Furthermore, over 400 million people in rural India also live without any electricity at all, because they are not yet connected to the grid.

Cleaner energy

Currently, around 60% of India’s electricity comes from coal, much of which is imported. But it is widely accepted that a greater emphasis on home-grown renewables could both increase access for poorer, off-grid communities and improve the reliability of the emerging economy’s energy supply.

As India receives 300 days of sunshine each year, solar is an obvious solution. Last year, data from the Government revealed the country almost doubled its cumulative solar energy capacity, boosting progress towards its ambitious solar target of 20 gigawatts by 2022.

The country recently announced a revived US$7.9 billion investment in its electric grid to prepare for this soaring renewables influx, which should hopefully be in place in time for the construction of the world’s biggest solar plant, which has the potential to triple India's solar capacity again.

India's current Prime Minister Manmohan Singh also supports clean energy growth. Last year he announced goals to double renewable energy capacity by 2017 and establish clean energy subsidies, and in 2010 launched the National Solar Mission which aims to establish India as a global leader in solar.

Non-negotiable 

Krishnan Pallassana, India Director, The Climate Group, explained the benefits of a new government improving access for solar growth: “Renewable energy is not just an option in India, it is a non-negotiable pre-requisite for the country to reach its growth and development goals. Renewable energy is the best bet towards ushering equitable opportunities to millions of rural people to come out of poverty.

“Our recent work in Gujarat, Maharashtra and West Bengal has demonstrated that clean and renewable energy is viable, equitable and accessible. We are hopeful that the new government in India will give special status to the renewable energy business by extending conducive policy framework and much needed finances.”

The Climate Group is currently implementing an access to rural energy project in India called Bijli – Clean Energy for All. Principally funded by the Dutch Postcode Lottery, the program aims to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and enhance the lives of off-grid inhabitants by deploying renewable energy technologies and improving infrastructure, over the course of two years.

The Government of Gujarat, of which Modi is Chief Minister, is a member of The Climate Group’s international States and Regions Alliance. The state has already demonstrated commitment to reducing its carbon emissions through energy reforms which reduced electricity transmission losses from 31% to 22% in four years. 

Related news:

India’s blackout signals urgent need for clean energy restructure

As India revives US$8.7 billion clean energy grid upgrade, off-grid projects also on rise

India building a solar power plant the size of Manhattan--it will be the biggest in the world

Indian Prime Minister wants clean energy subsidies, doubling of renewables by 2017

By Clare Saxon

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