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Tuesday, August 03, 2010

India: A Path to 20,000 MW by 2022

By Madeline Tyson, Breakthrough Fellow. Originally posted at the Breakthrough Institute

India recently released the first guidelines for the rapidly-developing nation's ambitious National Solar Mission that outline how the program plans to successfully deploy 20,000 MW of grid-tied solar power within the next 12 years. That goal, which would see the equivalent of 13% of the India's entire current electricity generation come from solar panels by 2022, presents a formidable challenge, one that India seeks to address with proactive public policy.

From the guidelines:

"The objective of the Jawaharlal Nehru National Solar Mission (JNNSM) under the brand 'Solar India' is to establish India as a global leader in solar energy, by creating the policy conditions for its diffusion across the country as quickly as possible. The Mission has set a target of 20,000MW and stipulates implementation and achievement of the target in 3 phases (first phase upto 2012-13, second phase from 2013 to 2017 and the third phase from 2017 to 2022) for various components, including grid connected solar power.

The successful implementation of the JNNSM requires the identification of resources to overcome the financial, investment, technology, institutional and other related barriers which confront solar power development in India. The penetration of solar power, therefore, requires substantial support. The policy framework of the Mission will facilitate the process of achieving grid parity by 2022.

In order to facilitate grid connected solar power generation in the first phase, a mechanism of "bundling" relatively expensive solar power with power from the unallocated quota of the Government of India (Ministry of Power) generated at NTPC coal based stations, which is relatively cheaper, has been proposed by the Mission. This "bundled power" would be sold to the Distribution Utilities at the Central Electricity Regulatory Commission (CERC) determined prices."
While the target is certainly a reach, the new National Solar Mission guidelines demonstrate a clear understanding that without proactive government policies to remove key barriers to solar deployment, this emerging clean energy technology will never become cost competitive with well-entrenched competitors, like coal. Like early adopters for smart phones or flat panel TVs, by spreading the initially-high costs of solar power across overall rates through "bundling," India's National Solar Mission can create the early-adopter markets needed to scale-up solar power and bring down costs over time.

India also recently proposed the implementation of a per ton coal cess whose revenue would go into a "National Clean Energy Fund" to finance clean energy innovation. This strategy, in concert with the scale-up from the National Solar Plan, offers the other key ingredient needed to cut costs through innovation, learning, and deployment at scale. Such proactive policy support is essential to making clean energy cheap and abundant.

Image source: Greenpeace

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