by Arunabha Ghosh and Rajeev Palakshappa
Creating a new renewable energy market is no easy task. India is blessed with abundant sunshine, in fact 300 days’ worth in most regions. Average incident solar radiation ranges between 4 and 7 kilowatt-hour per day per square metre – much higher than the amount of solar radiation in many other countries. Meanwhile, 70 per cent of India’s primary energy supply relies on fossil fuels while hundreds of millions of people need access to modern sources of energy. In 2010 India launched the Jawaharlal Nehru National Solar Mission, one of the world’s largest solar energy programmes. The aim is to install 20000 megawatts (MW) of grid-connected solar power and 2000 MW of off-grid solar power by 2022. This is an ambitious mission with the promise of responding, in part, to India’s climate challenge and to increasing energy access. Like India, most of the solar potential world over is in tropical countries. But by one count, until 2010, eight of the top ten countries with installed solar photovoltaic capacity were in temperate zones. Clearly, there is a long way to go before India realises its potential in solar energy but the National Solar Mission has positioned itself to play a significant catalytic role. How it could do so is the subject of our recent report, Laying the Foundation for a Bright Future, available here
A nascent solar industry is beginning to take shape in India, with more than 500 MW of capacity installed already. Competitive bids for projects have also driven prices for solar power down rapidly. But installed capacity and prices do not complete the picture. There is a need to understand challenges in installing projects, so that developers are able to do so on time and feed electricity into the grid at committed capacities. There are also questions about choice of technology and policies related to sourcing cells, modules and other equipment. And, perhaps most importantly, solar projects have to be financially viable to attract the levels of investment necessary to meet the Mission’s targets. These issues are interconnected and interdependent, critical to the evolution of a solar ecosystem.
In order to examine all the dimensions of the ecosystem, CEEW and the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) partnered to produce Laying the Foundation for a Bright Future. This report adopts a “whole-of-system” approach, identifying multiple stakeholders and focusing on all aspects of grid-connected solar power: selection, deployment and commissioning of projects; bankability and the role of various financial channels; the development of a robust manufacturing base; and the creation of an enabling environment with regard to land, power evacuation, skills. The figure below shows the different stakeholders operating at various levels in the solar ecosystem; effective coordination among them is essential for a successful Mission.
Drawing on our independent analysis of national, state-level and international programmes to promote solar energy, and after extensive individual and group stakeholder discussions, the report offers findings and recommendations in each of the focus areas. In the minimum it calls for three main policy priorities:
• Clear benchmarks, transparency and monitoring of project performance;
• A coordinated approach to strategic financing that brings together various funding channels and financial institutions; and
• A technology-neutral approach to promoting manufacturing.
The findings and recommendations of this report would be relevant not only for government agencies (at the national and state levels), but also for project developers, manufacturers, financiers, donor agencies, R&D and research institutions, and others keen on the success of the National Solar Mission. We welcome you to read the report and send us your comments. Over the coming weeks CEEW and NRDC will be continuing the discussion. If you are in India keep an eye out for sessions in Delhi and Mumbai, or email us at email@example.com for more information.