Solarising power

India’s dream to get a grip in solar power generation isn’t impossible anymore
Energy landscape is changing, and there is no secret about it. Most countries are shifting their focus on renewable energy sources and trying to phase out fossil fuels.
Frost & Sullivan reports that revenues in global solar power market are expected to more than double by 2020, from $60 billion in 2013 to $137 billion. The report focuses more Asia which will account for 46 per cent % of annual installed solar capacity. China, Japan, India and Australia are top four countries to take the greatest leaps.
Solarised IndiaIndia, which is energised with Modi wave, is working towards making India a power surplus country by 2019.
The same is echoed by Arul Shanmugasundaram, Executive VP – Projects and CTO, Tata Power Solar. He says, “India has about 2.8 GW of solar electricity installed, but the new government is striving hard and plans to install 100 GW of solar energy by 2022. With the government’s support, India will not face any issues related to solar power generation for the next 5-7 years. There is growth of at least 10 crore, if not more.”
K N Subramaniam, CEO, Moser Baer Solar Ltd., is also very optimistic about India’s future in solar power. “There is enough land to set up solar projects, and there is enough demand for solar power in India,” he explains.
Subramaniam also points out the best thing about solar. “People don’t need to carry it to long distances; they can generate and consume,” he adds. “Solar energy is extremely relevant for India. In the next 5-7 years, the sector will experience huge growth in India.”
Private sector participationThe government along with its positives initiatives need to focus more on attracting private participation. There is a serious concern of lack of private sector participation in the power segment. Even there is believe in India Inc. — go anywhere, but not to power.“The Indian power sector has had its set of issues — be it for project approvals, environmental approvals, timeline for setting up the projects, or getting delayed due to various issues,” remarks Shanmugasundaram.
Although lack of private sector participation is the negative part, the good thing is there is a clear dichotomy between plain power and conventional power. Most important, it’s not lack of demand. India continues to have lack of supply. Problems are only from supply side.
According to Subramaniam, “The phrase of ‘go anywhere, but not to power’ is primarily driven by the challenges faced in generation of thermal power globally as well as in India. However, discoms in Gujarat, Maharashtra and Madhya Pradesh have shown how one can manage power sector well and not to be distressed. Luckily, two out of these three states are very relevant for solar energy perspective. There is a clear dichotomy between solar and conventional power. Engaging with the industries as well as taking small steps will go a long way in strengthening solar energy’s prospect in India.”
Jayaram.U.K., Vice President – Operations, Renewsys India Pvt. Ltd., thinks that the government institutions should be transparent, aggressive and focused. They shouldn’t just make promises; they should also implement.
Government supportThough India’s share is small, but our nation plans very big. The government has a clear focus on this industry. The government of India is taking several initiatives to promote solar energy. According to Power and Coal Minister Piyush Goyal, India aims to generate 2 trillion units of power by 2019. Currently, renewable energy sources account for only 6 per cent of the total power generated and about 53 million homes in the country are not yet electrified. The government believes that domestic solar equipment manufacturing capacity of 700-800 MW is not sufficient to meet the government’s ambitious plans of adding more power generation capacity through renewable energy sources.
‘100 Smart Cities’ missionIn order to complete “acche din” vision, PM Modi has made a grandiose promise of building 100 smart cities in India. The government has already allocated Rs.1,000 crore for each city which will be selected according to its population.While talking about “smart city mission”, Shanmugasundaram says, “A true Indian would like to see cities that have all the amenities and are not just wireless mobile access and everything. One of the main things that the smart cities initiative focuses is not just on mobile, digital access and energy but also sustainability. From a smart cities point of initiative, it is a good effort. The government will make significant progress in this aspect.”
Subramaniam is also optimistic about PM Modi’s ambitious mission. He is so confidant about the present government that he thinks India can develop 100 smart cities in a time frame which can surprise everybody including the government itself.
“This mission is excellent and would improve the infrastructure in India,” echoes Jayaram. “The mission will also give a lot of job opportunities and change the global perception towards India.”
Challenges and opportunitiesThe biggest challenge can be land availability, and in India per capita land availability is low. Required land for utility-scale solar power plants is about 1 sq. km (250 acres) for every 20–60 MW generated, and this can strain India’s available land resource. However, the good news is that solar-generation costs here have dropped from INR18 a kWh to about INR7 a kWh.  Even the government is planning to subsidy the production of PV panels, which, in turn, will reduce the market price and lead to more usage of solar power in India.

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