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Solar energy generation in India: Lighting lives!

IBEF, Knowledge Centre

Jan 17, 2019 15:25

The generation of power from solely renewable sources like solar energy is a prime focus of India’s energy planning. Started in the early 1970s, the process of creating a sustainable base in the form of renewable energy resources has the support of the Indian government, and steps are being taken to meet and exceed the solar energy generation goals set by the country.

Statistics speak volumes

Solar energy generation is an industry that is growing by leaps and bounds in India. The solar installed capacity in the country at the end of Q3 CY 2018 was about 26 GW, a 53 percent increase compared to 17 GW of solar installed as of Q3 CY 2017. Initially, the National Solar Mission of the government of India had set a target of achieving 20 GW solar capacity by 2022. However, the dedicated steps undertaken by the government to reach the target have helped the country achieve this goal in a phenomenally short amount of time which is four years ahead of the agreed-upon schedule.

Today, the average price of generating solar electricity is 18% lower than the price of generating electricity from coal-based fuel sources. India’s energy goals have been revised in view of the exceedingly good work done in the area. In January 2015, the Indian government released a new and expanded solar plan. Under this new target, India hopes to get US$ 100 billion in solar power investments, 40 GW of solar energy generation solely from rooftop units, and another 60 GW of overall solar capacity by 2022. In total, this means that India hopes to generate 100 GW of solar capacity in the next four years. This is quite a tall order when you consider that the end-to-end solar capacity of the whole world was around 303 GW in 2017. However, owing to marked improvements in the technological field of solar thermal power storage makes India dream a real possibility even on such a short timeline.

Growth of solar energy power generation in India

While it should be noted that coal resources remain the king of power generation in India with thermal energy making up for a whopping 79% of Indian power generation, solar and other renewable sources like hydro power, biomass, wind energy, etc. are making their presence as viable alternatives known clearly. Even though India’s solar capacity has reached the 20 GW milestone, solar energy accounted for 1.67% of the total electricity generation in the country.

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When it comes to year-over-year growth though, solar is the clear winner. Growing by a stunning 86% from 2016 to 2017, solar became the most area of most powerful source of electricity generation growth. This is all thanks to a number of initiatives that the Indian government has put forward and successfully undertaken over the last few years.

Solar growth initiatives by India

According to the India Solar Project Tracker by Mercom, rooftop solar energy generation accounts for 1.6 GW with the remaining 18.4 GW coming from utility-scale installations. Telangana leads the Indian states with respect to cumulative solar installations, with other states like Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh, and Rajasthan following at its heels. The Ministry of New and Renewable Energy (MNRE) has announced new programmes and policies to offer incentives for rooftop solar project commission to the various distribution companies.

The rapidly increasing demand for electricity in the remotest corners of the country is expected to continue the upward trend. Government initiatives are largely directed toward meeting this increasing demand by adding to the installed generation capacity in a huge way. Owing to the strong and determined focus on promotion of renewable energy by the Indian government, India now holds the third spot among a total of 40 countries on the EY’s Renewable Energy Country Attractiveness Index. As per the list of electricity accessibility released by the World Bank in 2017, India rose to the 26th rank by moving up 73 spots.

India is also likely to become the first country in the world to use LED bulbs for all of its lighting needs by the year 2019. The Energy Efficiency Services Limited (EESL) operating under the broad marquee of Unnati Jyoti by Affordable LEDs for All (UJALA) has already made inroads into achieving this goal by distributing a whopping 280 million LEDs to Indian consumers as of December 2017, in addition to over 524.3 million LEDs that private companies had sold in the same period of time. By becoming a country powered solely by LEDs, India stands to save over US$ 6.23 billion every year.

In 2015, approximately 1 million solar lanterns were sold in India which helped to reduce the dependency on kerosene. In addition to solar home lighting systems and solar street lighting installation projects, the government of India also distributed over 1.4 million solar cookers in the country.

In 2016, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi inaugurated the International Solar Alliance (ISA) of over 120 countries, in collaboration with the French President Francois Hollande at Gurgaon. The primary focus of this organisation is to promote and develop solar energy products particularly in countries in and around the two Tropics. Initiatives such as the 10-year tax exemption offered on solar energy projects, greenhouse gas emission reduction policies, as well as the plan to specify regulations for the use of drones in the arena of solar power plants, are just a few steps that the government of India is taking to achieve the energy goals set for 2022.