India as a global leader in solar power

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The size of Earth in comparison with the sun. (Illustration: NASA and European Space Agency)

One significant news story that almost slipped by me unnoticed relates to India’s likely emergence as a global leader in solar power. A new World Bank report positions India as the potential global leader in solar power and as one of the the lowest cost destinations.

The World Bank report ‘Paving the way for transformational future: Lessons from JNNSM Phase 1’ offers a very sunny (couldn’t help that) view of the solar power sector in the country.

“In a short span of three years, India has made impressive strides in developing its abundant solar power potential. With more than 300 million people without access to energy and industry citing energy shortage as key growth barrier in India, solar power has the potential to help the country address the shortage of power for economic growth,” Onno Ruhl, World Bank country director in India, has been quoted as saying. “However, while India is clearly emerging as a global leader in the area of solar power, to achieve its target of adding 20,000 MW of solar capacity by 2022, it needs to address the key barriers and constraints that could come in the way of scaling up the solar program,” Ruhl said.

JNNSM stands for the Jawaharlal Nehru National Solar Mission. Once you get past the disturbing inevitability naming every major project by individuals from a specific family, you do begin to see the enormously transformation potential of solar power for India. We all know that almost the entire country is baked by the sun for the better part of the year.

Of course, there are significant challenges as pointed out by the report. It highlights many of them that could inhibit India from tapping its full potential by 2022. “These include lack of access to low cost financing; inadequate solar infrastructure; lack of raw materials for several solar PV (photovoltaic) manufacturers; and an underdeveloped supply chain leading to high inventory costs.”

Ashish Khanna, an energy specialist and one of the authors of the report, says, Building on the success of Phase 1, the program now needs to focus on promoting financing of solar projects by commercial banks, developing shared infrastructure facilities such as solar parks and identifying comparative advantage of Indian manufacturing across the supply chain.”

It is in the area of solar parks that my home state of Gujarat has really stirred things up. A news story on the Bank’s India section says, “The report recommends publicly developed infrastructure such as solar parks to help increase efficiency and lower costs. A Solar park in Charanka (Patan district) in Gujarat is today the largest solar park in Asia.  Such shared infrastructure facilities helps in developing critical infrastructure, including facilities for power transmission, roads and water, thereby ensuring the rapid development of solar projects as well as local employment generation, the report adds. In addition, India’s plans to develop ultra-mega solar projects will help showcase the potential for large scale grid connected solar projects to the entire world.”

In terms of costs, the report says, “It (India) has reduced the costs of solar energy to $0.15 per kWh, making India amongst the lowest cost destinations for grid-connected solar photovoltaic (PV) in the world.”

This is clearly one of the few sunshine stories to come out in 2013. One was under the impression that it is China which is forging ahead in solar power, which it probably is, but India’s emergence is a refreshing revelation. The sheer sociological, cultural and ecological impact of the success of solar power cannot be overstated considering India’s demographic and geographic heft.

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About chutiumsulfate

South Asians can infer from my name what I am. View all posts by chutiumsulfate

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