Get­ting the So­lar Power Goal on Track

The Economic Times - - The Edit Page -

One brief sen­tence in fi­nance min­is­ter Arun Jait­ley’s Bud­get speech hints at a po­ten­tially trans­for­ma­tive strat­egy to rev up so­lar en­ergy pan-In­dia. The pro­posal to feed about 7,000 rail­way sta­tions with so­lar power could go a long way in meet­ing, if not ex­ceed­ing, the na­tional goal to have 100 GW of func­tional so­lar gen­er­a­tion ca­pac­ity by 2022. If the Rail­ways can gain­fully lever­age land and build­ing space for, say, 20 MW of so­lar ca­pac­ity in each of the 7,000 sta­tions, it would greatly in­crease green, re­new­able power na­tion­ally. The Rail­ways would be in a win-win sit­u­a­tion in switch­ing over to so­lar power. Given that the Rail­ways pay for power at the high­est, com­mer­cial rates, sourc­ing so­lar power on-site would save money and the en­vi­ron­ment. There is wide­spread en­ergy poverty and the lack of qual­ity power in large parts of In­dia, and con­cur­rently our green­house gas emis­sions are large and ris­ing fast. The way ahead is to speed­ily con­cre­tise for­ward-look­ing plans for so­lar power at rail sta­tions, and fo­cus on meet­ing light­ing de­mand in ad­join­ing ar­eas too, so as to reap economies of scale. It would gel well with the on­go­ing plan to re­vamp and up­grade rail­way sta­tions. And for the so­lar as­sets, there would be much po­ten­tial for un­lock­ing value and divest­ment, fol­low­ing list­ing on the stock mar­ket, and sooner rather than later. The way for­ward for the Rail­ways is to proac­tively ac­cess funds from the Clean En­vi­ron­ment Cess cor­pus, seek ac­cel­er­ated de­pre­ci­a­tion, gen­er­a­tion-based in­cen­tives, etc, and ex­plore other in­no­va­tive fi­nanc­ing op­tions to ac­tu­alise its so­lar power tar­gets in a time-bound fash­ion. The Rail­ways have a path-break­ing op­por­tu­nity to adopt so­lar power for light­ing pur­poses and, in the process, hand­somely boost its mar­ket cap­i­tal­i­sa­tion. The track is clear, all the way home.

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