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Government's 100,000 – MV Solar Energy Plan, Discuss

The world is facing a grave crisis of climate change caused by the excessive emission of green house gases due to human activities. In tropical countries like India, the manifestation of climate change has been in form of deadly heat waves, drought, flash floods unseasonal rains and so on which claims hundreds of lives each year. It is the poor farmers, labourers, construction workers and homeless who suffer the most. About 30% of this green house gases are emitted by power plants. In the Indian culture we consider Sun as a God and we have turned towards him to help us to mitigate the problem of climate change to an extent. The Government of India aims to install 100000 MW capacity of solar power by the year 2022. This will provide us with clean energy without any green house gas emissions. However, the question in front of us is that can India achieve such an ambitious target of installing 100000 MW of solar power in seven years? This question must be answered. This is because if this feat is achieved then it will be a great boost towards our goal of energy security. It will also help us reduce air pollution and green house gas emissions and mitigate climate change. The poor farmers whose crops are being destroyed due to erratic behavior of the weather will get some respite. Finally, it will make India a leader on the world stage in terms of solar energy just as Germany is in terms of wind energy. However, if we fail, then it will only lead to wastage of resources which otherwise could have been invested in research and development to search for other solutions to our problems. Although the goal is very challenging, it is achievable provided we are able to meet some of the challenges which stand in our way.

Geography of India is such that it is perfect for solar power production. Being in the tropical and subtropical region, it receives about 320 W/m2 of energy equivalent to about 5000 trillion units annually. States like Rajasthan, Gujrat, Telangana, Karnataka and so on which have barren lands, which cannot be used for agriculture, are well suited for setting up solar power plants.

The policy scenario in India is extremely conducive to solar power production. The government is providing tax incentives for investors setting up solar power plant and lower custom duties for import of solar power equipments. The procedures for setting up solar power plants have been greatly simplified and the clearances are obtained smoothly to reduce the delays.

The support for solar industry is not only coming from Indian government but also from foreign countries that recognize the threat of climate change, thanks to the IPCC reports. The UN has devised various mechanisms like Kyoto protocol using which the countries can provide support for solar industry in India to mitigate the effects of climate change. Very recently there was Renewable Energy Conference organized in India where solar power got lot of investment promises from companies like SunEdison and Adani power.

However, as mentioned earlier, the task ahead of us is very daunting. The current installed capacity of solar power in India is about 3000 MW. Taking it to 100000 MW in 7 years will be a feat in itself. The technology for solar power is still expensive and the cost of power comes out to be minimum Rs 7 compared to thermal power which costs Rs 3-4 per unit. Indian lower and middle class may not agree to pay high rates. The solar power will be available during the day while peak demands in India is during the night. The technology for storing electricity is expensive and may add to the cost. The Grid in India is very unstable and weak and might not be able to absorb the solar power generated.

The problems listed above mainly have to do with expensive technology and infrastructure weakness. These problems are complex but solvable. India can use funding from Green Climate Fund and loans from World Bank and newly opened New Development Bank and Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank to strengthen the power grid and remove other infrastructural bottlenecks. Platforms like UNFCCC can be used to get solar technologies from developing countries at lower costs under the principles of CBDR which will lead to lower cost of solar power.

The development of solar energy is imperative for India. It can be used to partly solve the problem of climate change which affects all but most severely the poor and vulnerable. If the government adopts the right plan and executes it well utilizing the global partnership for action against climate change, India will definitely reach its goal of 100000 MW of solar power by 2022 and the sun of solar energy will shine brightly in India.

Abhishek Kumar

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