What’s eclipsing India’s solar sector?
In 2010, India launched the Jawaharlal Nehru National Solar Mission, one of the world’s most ambitious solar energy programmes. With 300 days of sunshine annually, the aim is to install 20,000 megawatts (Mw) of grid-connected and 2,000 Mw of off-grid solar power by 2022. Seventy per cent of India’s primary energy supply runs on fossil fuels. The Solar Mission holds the promise of tackling, in part, two problems at once: India’s rapidly growing energy demand and the global threat of climate change.
India’s solar market is far from mature. If the government, the private sector, research institutions and civil society work together, the possibilities are endless. But there is little room to be sanguine.
In our recent reports, “Laying the Foundation for a Bright Future, and Concentrated Solar Power: Heating Up India’s Solar Thermal Market under the National Solar Mission”, we analysed the building blocks needed for a robust grid-connected solar programme, namely project selection, project commissioning, financial viability, manufacturing policy, technology choices, and the ease of doing business.
Our research reveals that a nascent solar industry has begun to take shape in India. Capacity has jumped to more than 1,000 Mw from only 17.8 Mw two years ago. This is certainly progress. What’s more, competitive bids for projects have rapidly driven down prices. The last round of bidding revealed prices as low as Rs 7.49/kWh ($0.15/kWh) for photovoltaic (PV) projects. This is competitive with diesel-fired captive electricity generation.