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The sun shines on India’s future; Solar holds the key to India’s sustainable development

With the growing demand for energy and depleting conventional energy sources, renewable energy is going to play a crucial role in attaining the energy security of the nation. Furthermore, increased concerns on climate change issues across the globe make it imperative that renewable source becomes mainstay for energy needs.

Till now, the Government of India has installed 71 Giga watt renewable energy capacity in the country as against the 175 Giga Watt target set for 2022, and an investment of $100 billion would be required for installing the balance 104 GW project capacity.

However, the billion-dollar question is, whether India is ready to harness the potential of alternate energy sector and if the Government can implement policy reforms to provide the required fillip to the sector. Presently Govt. has ambitious plan which includes specific goals to (a) create an enabling policy framework for the deployment of1,00,000 MW of solar power by 2022; (b) create favourable conditions for solar manufacturing capability, particularly solar PV modlues for indigenous production and market leadership; (c) promote programmes for off-grid applications, reaching 2000 MW by 2022, (d) achieve 20 million m2 solar thermal collector area by 2022, and (e) deploy 20 million solar lighting systems for rural areas by 2022.

To be able to achieve these targets, India’s electricity capacity should double to 40% by 2030 with significant contribution of renewable energy.

A report by Mercom India Research, said solar installations in April-June 2018 had halved to 1.6 GW from January-March, due to the lack of a strong project pipeline this calendar year. At the end of 2017, China had a third of the world’s installed solar capacity, the US had 13% and India just 5%, according to the BP Statistical Review of World Energy 2018. Keeping pace with the global counterparts, whether India’s solar growth story will see the light of day or not, is still not clear.

Data analysis reveals that nearly 58% of the geographical area potentially represent the solar hotspots in the country with more than 5 kWh/m2/day of annual average global insolation. A techno-economic analysis of the solar power technologies and a prospective minimal utilization of the land available within these solar hotspots validate their immense power generation. as well as emission reduction potential.

In line with this overall scenario, India needs to develop a robust manufacturing eco-system promoting module manufacturing and energy storage. But, there are many challenges that exist for the overall development of the requisite infrastructure like lower GST rates for all components of solar sector, which is yet to be clarified by the Government, low electricity tariffs and 100% import dependence on raw materials such as wafer and ingot. Apart from this, there are challenges in project development such as issues pertaining to land, connectivity permissions, volatile currency exchange rates, raising project loans, ambiguous tax structures and vulnerable module prices etc. which makes importing equipment more expensive.

The Government needs to hand-hold domestic manufacturing across the whole value chain in order to become self-sufficient by providing capital & production subsidy as well as other incentives to encourage R&D. There is also eminent need of technology transfer from other countries. I believe, with strengthened public-private partnership, India will surely develop high efficiency next generation modules.

Job creation is one of the promising side of alternate energy sector. According to IRENA, more than 500,000 jobs were created in renewable energy in 2017 of which 70% came from clean energy sector in just 6 countries including India. This demonstrates that shutting-up of fossil fuel power plants will not lead to net loss of jobs.

According to World Bank estimates, India’s GDP is expected to double from $2.5 Trillion to US $ 5 Trillion by 2025 , which will lead to huge demand for energy. Henceforth, the outlook for solar energy generation is very positive, assuming the investor-friendly manufacturing policy is in place; India has the potential of becoming ‘Numero Uno’ in green energy production and eventually can become exporter instead of importer of energy.