Even while the Copenhagen talks on climate change are going on in full swing, the Indian government is drawing up its own blueprint for creating long-term sustainable energy solutions for the country. Its ambitious Jawaharlal Nehru National Solar Mission is a bold step in this direction. However, a robust and actionable plan for implementation is needed to ensure that the vision is transformed into reality.
The mission, which forms a part of India’s National Action Plan on Climate Change, aims at contributing towards the country’s long-term energy security as well as ecological security. It envisages installed solar capacity addition of 20,000 MW by the end of the 13th Five Year Plan in 2022. An analysis done by Greenpeace, a non-profit organisation, shows that this initiative will ensure an annual reduction of 434 million tons of carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions every year by 2050. Apart from combating climate change, this mission would also serve to alleviate poverty and create employment opportunities.
As a step towards this direction, the government has proposed capacity addition of 1,300 MW over the next three years. Based on the success of the first phase of implementation, the government will finalise the strategy for further action on this front. The Cabinet has already approved setting up of 1,100 MW of grid solar power and 200 MW capacity of off-grid solar applications utilising both solar thermal and photovoltaic technologies in the first phase of the mission. Additionally, the mission will focus on research and development (R&D) and human resources development (HRD) to develop and strengthen Indian skills and enhance indigenous content to make the mission sustainable.
The government will provide incentive of 20% capital expenditure during the first 10 years for the units in special economic zones (SEZs), and 25% of the capital expenditure in non-SEZ units. Any unit can claim incentives in the form of capital subsidy or equity participation.
The Indian government’s Special Incentive Package Scheme (SIPS) for its proposed photovoltaic (solar panels) and poly-silicon (a component used for integrated circuits and CPUs) project in Kutch district, Gujarat, has received 18 applications. The applicants include Titan Energy Systems, Tata BP Solar Power, and PV Technologies India, a subsidiary of Moser Baer, and the latest, Euro Multivision. However, none of the players have reported full financial closure. Other Indian companies involved in solar panels are Bharat Heavy Electricals Ltd (BHEL), XL Telecom, Kaveri Telecom Products, Surana Telecom etc.
For now, the solar energy mission exists only on paper. While some of the steps already taken are commendable, the success of the plan would hinge on strong participation from the private sector, technological expertise and co-operation from foreign players and having a firm regulatory framework in place.