The Charanka solar park project was the brainchild of Mr. Narendra Modi when he was a chief minister of Gujarat. Mr. Modi spurred companies to build more than 900MW of solar plant across the state in just a couple of years. Indian PM’s renewable energy ambitions are big and the country is home to Asia’s biggest solar farm in Gujarat, but coal use is still increasing due to various present constraints. Now, as prime minister, the question is whether he can repeat the feat across India, which receives more sunlight than any other country in the G20. One good example of solar energy is ‘Gujarat Solar Park’ in Gujarat, India, is Asia’s largest solar power station with an installed capacity of 1,000 MW. Boosting clean energy over dirty fossil fuels is high on the agenda and solar is booming, with new installations around the world doubling every two years. China is also aggressively pursuing the green technology, installing 12,000 MW in 2013 – a record for any country in a single year. As production goes up, panel costs are plummeting – down 80% since 2008, according to the New Climate Economy report released on 15 September. This puts solar on the edge of beating coal and gas on price. As per Mr. Piyush Goyal, power minister of India, says solar has a bright future ahead. As previous government’s target of 20,000 MW of solar by 2022 will be smashed due to increasing demand of energy in India. In fact, India needs at least 10,000 MW a year (of solar) and six, or seven or eight of wind every year is not very difficult to envisage. We also should accept the fact that major portion of energy generated was from coal only, electricity produced by coal burning between June and August 2014 jumped 21% on 2013.
Gujarat Solar Park known as Charanka Solar Park is Asia’s largest solar park hub. Image source: youthkiawaaz.com
As per Deng Xiaoping’s famous quote: “It doesn’t matter if a cat is white or black, as long as it catches mice.” One important question is whether the world is prepared to capture enough mice – carbon emissions – which are going to be the center focus for world leaders. Based on report published in www.livemint.com/money; a solar push to India’s investment cycle Solar energy projects alone accounted for Rs.62,800 crore of the Rs.68,200 crore renewable energy projects announced in September quarter this year. An increase in solar energy projects from states and Centre is part of the government’s initiative to increase solar energy capacity 40-fold in the next 10 years for which an investment of around Rs.6 trillion is estimated to be required. Perhaps not in a way one would expect though. New project announcements rose to Rs.2.14 trillion in the September quarter, up from Rs.90,840 crore in the three months ended June, according to the Centre for Monitoring Indian Economy (CMIE). One way of interpreting those numbers would be that positive sentiment owing to a new government taking charge and some of its measures are translating to some action on the ground. But that is only one part of the story. About half, or Rs.1.05 trillion, of these fresh investment intentions are from the electricity generation sector. That’s more than a five-fold jump from the Rs.19,300 crore worth of projects announced in the April to June quarter. In fact, it is just 20% lower than the combined investment announcements of the past three quarters in this sector.
The problems with the power industry are well known, so what is driving this investment? It turns out that most of these project proposals are from central or state government bodies. They have announced Rs.81,000 crore worth of projects. Of this Rs.68,200 crore, or three quarters of the total, are renewable energy projects. Solar energy projects alone accounted for Rs.62,800 crore—with a single ultra-mega power unit announced by the Tamil Nadu government worth Rs.26,000 crore. This is part of the government’s initiative to increase solar energy capacity 40-fold in the next 10 years for which an investment of around Rs.6 trillion is estimated to be required. It also comes at an opportune time given the whole mess around coal block allocation. But the big questions are the sustainability of this trend and how many of these proposals will come to fruition.
India is only G20 country having excellent potential for tapping solar energy in cost effective and sustainable way with combination of Indian and international technology base. This indigenously available solar energy resource can be used gainfully for meeting country’s energy requirements – thermal as well as electricity – of domestic, industrial, and commercial sectors. Public perceptions that solar energy is expensive and it cannot meet evening demand, need to be effectively countered. It is a fact that over the years, cost of delivered solar energy has come down drastically and it is already cheaper than diesel generators’ based electricity – backbone of most of our commercial, industrial, and residential establishments. And with integration of proper storage media, solar energy can be, and is being used in the nighttime as well. In fact, solar is the only renewable energy which is abundantly available on the planet. The development of new solar harvesting technologies could perhaps improve the people perceptions and acceptability towards solar energy in days to come.