Tap­ping the abun­dance

Electrical Monitor - - EDITORIAL -

ndia has the rare dis­tinc­tion of be­ing the only coun­try—or at least amongst the very few—that has a sep­a­rate min­istry for re­new­able en­ergy. For decades to­gether, only psy­cho­log­i­cal sat­is­fac­tion was de­rived from this dis­tinc­tion. How­ever, one can now per­ceive the se­ri­ous­ness of in­tent. While wind, biomass and small hy­dropower drove In­dia’s re­new­able en­ergy as­pi­ra­tions till a few years ago, the coun­try is go­ing all out to tap the sun’s abun­dance.

IIn­dia has pledged to have 100 GW of so­lar power ca­pac­ity by 2020. This tar­get is five times of what it was till around a year ago. While spec­u­lat­ing about the tar­get achieve­ment is not the point here, what is strik­ing to note is the gov­ern­ment’s strong re­solve in en­vi­sion­ing a tar­get of such mag­ni­tude. The 100 GW of ca­pac­ity is to come from 40 GW of rooftop in­stal­la­tions and 60 GW of grid-con­nected util­ity-sized plants. It is very heart­en­ing to see that the en­vi­ron­ment with re­spect to so­lar en­ergy is in­deed get­ting con­ducive for In­dia. Cap­i­tal costs of so­lar power plants, par­tic­u­larly pho­to­voltaic ones, have dropped dras­ti­cally in re­cent years. De­vel­op­ers are pass­ing on this ad­van­tage to util­i­ties with so­lar tar­iffs drop­ping to sub-₹5 per unit. The much awaited grid-par­ity of so­lar en­ergy has in­deed ar­rived and, ahead of its time. De­spite all the tech­ni­cal achieve­ments of con­ven­tional grid-based ru­ral elec­tri­fi­ca­tion, 40 per cent of In­di­ans still do not have ac­cess to elec­tric­ity. Reach­ing grid-fed power to re­mote lo­ca­tions is in­fea­si­ble. In such a sit­u­a­tion, so­lar can prove a very ef­fi­cient so­lu­tion—ei­ther as rooftop plants or large plants con­nected via mi­cro grids. Even a few hours of elec­tric­ity, for most part of the year, can pro­pel In­dia’s vil­lages to so­cio-eco­nomic progress. While most states are ag­gres­sively pur­su­ing their so­lar power pro­grammes through tar­iff-based bid­ding, it is in­deed un­for­tu­nate to note that most states are skimp­ing on their re­new­able pur­chase obli­ga­tions. This must change. If it doesn’t, In­dia can never ex­pe­ri­ence the good that so­lar en­ergy could do. The ex­cuse that most cash-strapped dis­coms have—that of hav­ing to pur­chase costly so­lar power—is no longer ten­able thanks to rapidly fall­ing tar­iffs. In­dia is en­dowed with abun­dant so­lar ir­ra­di­a­tion and also un­us­able land that can be gain­fully re­pur­posed for so­lar in­stal­la­tions. So­lar plants can be erected atop canals to pre­vent wa­ter evap­o­ra­tion apart from gen­er­at­ing in­ex­pen­sive so­lar en­ergy. The op­por­tu­ni­ties are lim­it­less, just like the sun’s en­ergy. The time to move to­wards sun-based en­ergy se­cu­rity is now.

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