Friday, 20 November 2009

India targets 1,000mw solar power in 2013
18 November 2009

The US and other advanced countries may be dithering in the fight against climate change but India is ready to launch its Solar Mission under the National Action Plan on Climate Change, with plans to generate 1,000 MW of power by 2013.

The Union Cabinet is going to consider the mission document, which requires India to generate 1,000 MW of solar energy every year by 2013. A complete package has been proposed to propel the power sector into 'solar reforms' that could lead to annual production of 20,000 MW by 2020 if phase 1 of the solar mission goes well. The country currently produces less than 5 MW every year.

In the first phase, between 2010 and 2013, the government is also proposing to generate 200 MW of off-grid solar energy and cover 7 million m² with solar collectors. The mission, if approved by the Cabinet, will entail three phases with the ambitious targets and financial mechanisms for the latter two phases being reviewed on the basis of performance in the first three-year phase. By the end of the final phase in 2022, the government hopes to produce 20,000 MW of grid-based solar energy, 2,000 MW of off-grid solar energy and cover 20 million m² with collectors.

Solar lighting systems would also be provided to 9,000 villages under existing schemes by providing soft loans which would be refinanced by the Indian Renewable Energy Development Agency Limited. Instead of the large direct subsidy to solar energy producers suggested earlier, the government has decided to integrate solar energy production and sale into existing power purchase mechanisms.

NTPC Vidyut Vyapar Nigam Limited (NVVN) shall in the first phase be made the nodal agency to buy solar energy from producers at the rate recently established by Central Electricity Regulatory Commission. It would then sell it to state utilities which would be credited against the compulsory renewable energy purchase targets which the respective state electricity regulatory commission sets up. Specific targets for solar energy may also be set up for the utilities to buy as part of their power portfolios.

NVVN will bundle solar energy with the unallocated central pool to sell it to state utilities. The government also plans to do away with customs and excise duty on import of capital equipment as well as ease the duty rates for raw material and inputs. Roof-top solar energy will be promoted by providing a generation based incentive for self-use as well as putting the power on to the grid.

To enhance human resources involved in the sector, it wants to train at least 1,000 engineers to specialise in the field besides providing scholarships to 100 engineers to study abroad in the first phase of the mission. IITs and other engineering institutes will be asked to set up specialised courses to meet the industry's demand.

To promote innovative uses of solar energy, a venture capital fund will be set up to promote start-ups in collaboration with institutes like IIMs. A national centre of excellence for research on solar energy is proposed as well to push research and development in the emerging field. The government has proposed a Solar Energy Authority or a Mission with an additional secretary rank official to head the executive arm.