Baseload, Bioenergy, Energy Efficiency, Geothermal, Hydropower, Solar, Storage, Wind Power

The Dark Horse in the Global Solar Race: India’s 100-GW Solar Ambition

A “dark horse” is defined as a little-known entity that emerges to prominence in the face of competition — a contestant that seems unlikely to succeed. I borrow the term from a conversation last week, wherein India was referred to as the dark horse in the global race to go solar.

In passing as it might have been, there seems to be no better description of India’s Solar ambition, or of the backdrop in which India has gained global prominence, simply by having the courage to Dream.

 

As the global industry steps out of the shadow of captivation that has held the focus of the Solar world for the past three months, we begin to see the first rays of light illuminate the path to India’s solar future.

The government is working overtime, and policies seem to be rolling out faster than you can absorb the magnitude of the ambitions stated in them. The country’s leadership is engaging pro-actively with industry participants creating an atmosphere conducive new entrants in the industry, and innovative models are being explored to chart the course to success.

These initiatives provide an indication of the thought and vision with which India has made a statement of its intent to be a world leader in solar energy. To get a further insight into the underlying need and rationale driving India’s solar ambitions the following facts merit consideration:

  • The electricity sector in India has an installed capacity of 261 GW as of March 2015, which is the close to the installed capacity in China as of 2000.
  • By 2013 the installed electricity capacity in China had increased to ~1245 GW, with approximately 70 percent of the contribution from thermal power plants.
  • Apart from the Environmental concerns that have arisen as a result of this reliance on thermal power, coal price spikes over the years have contributed to accumulated losses of CNY 100 billion ($17 billion) in the Top 5 Thermal Generation companies in China since 2008!

At the time China had to make its decision to meet the electricity demand fuelled by the increased focus on Manufacturing activities and improving standard of living of its population, solar was neither as efficient nor as competitive in pricing as thermal power generation alternatives. Hence, China had no option but to choose a coal-centric scenario to fuel its growth.

India, as we would all like to believe, is today placed in a scenario similar to that of China in 2000. Of the 1.4 billion people of the world who have no access to electricity in the world, India accounts for over 300 million. India also needs to increase it’s electricity production — in concomitance with China’s increase from 2000-2015 — to meet with the government’s commitment to provide 24×7 power to all households and to realise Prime Minister Modi’s dream to make India a global destination for manufacturing.

However, with the drastic decrease in the cost of solar power over the last 15 years, India today has a viable alternative to a coal-dependent future. A future dependent on the most dependable of sources for its input resource and which eases the pressure on our country’s import bill, rather than strains it. A future that is technology dependent and hence gets progressively cheaper as its deployment increases, and also subsequently secures the future of our next generation rather than putting it at risk. 

There are of course still plenty of unanswered questions, but there is also the conviction and belief that the answers to these questions will unravel themselves as we walk along the path. When conviction and belief was enough to lead our nation to Independence, there should be no reason to believe that it cannot lead us now from proverbial darkness to light as we ride into the sunrise of India’s power revolution.

Lead image: Dark horse. Credit: Shutterstock.