Feature Report: India and Energy

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India and Solar Power: An Ambition Aimed at Bringing North and South Together

India's Prime Minister Narendra Modi has set the bar for renewable energies - particularly solar power - very high by taking part in a global project led by industrial and emerging countries around the world with the goal of creating a “mass effect”. 

Rooftop photovoltaic panels cover a total of 33 hectares at a solar power plant near Amritsar, in Punjab. ©NARINDER NANU / AFP

In 2015 India set particularly ambitious targets with respect to renewable energies, calling for 100 GW of solar powerIn physics, power is the amount of energy supplied by a system per unit time. In simpler terms, power can be viewed as energy output..., 60 GW of wind power, 10 GW of biomassIn the energy sector, biomass is defined as all organic matter of plant or animal origin... and 5 GW of hydropower by 2022. By way of comparison, in 2014 the entire world had 181 GW of installed solar capacity. India has therefore set itself a lofty goal. The sub-continent has become a renewables Eldorado where many international firms are converging on a market shaped by powerful Indian companies, such as Welspun Renewables, and large multi-sector conglomerates like Adani, Mahindra and Tata.

648 MW: The installed capacity of the Kamuthi photovoltaic farm in India, which at the end of 2016 became the world's most powerful.

A Giant Solar Plan

Prime Minister Narendra Modi's plan for India aims to achieve several objectives:

Of the 100 GW of solar power1, India is planning on 60 GW of electricity generated by large solar farms in order to reduce dependence on fossil fuels and 40 GW from rooftop systems, to supplement the often deficient centralized electrical grids.

As a symbol of its policy of big solar farms, in the autumn of 2016 India inaugurated what is now the world's largest photovoltaic power plant (648 MW of maximum output). Installed in Kamuthi, in the state of Tamil Nadu, in southeast India, it should surpass, in terms of nominal capacity, California's Solar Star solar farm with its 579 MW output. The 2.5 million solar panels are cleaned by robots, thus providing a solution to the Indian countryside's endemic dust problem. One of the project's remarkable features is that it was completed in only eight months.

India already has nearly 7 GW installed, in particular in the Rajasthan sunbelt, the tourist-popular desert region near New Delhi. In September 2016, its installed solar production capacity reached 8.6 GW, compared to 4.8 GW 18 months earlier.

What About Funding?

Such ambitious goals require colossal investments. India has chosen to seek support from developed countries. This is consistent with a long political tradition that has always emphasized these countries' historical responsibility for global warmingGlobal warming, also called planetary warming or climate change... and seeks to make India the leading advocate for emerging countries' demands. India translated this demand for "climate justice" into a positive project bringing together countries of the North and countries of the South.

In a side event to the December 2015 COP 21 talks, India and France initiated an "International Solar Alliance" that more than 120 countries have already joined2. The initiative aims to mobilize private companies, States and financial institutions over the world to raise funds to develop solar power in the Southern countries. The aim: $1 trillion of investment by 2030. Northern industries should be attracted by the opening of new markets and the opportunities for production partnerships. India is also counting heavily on technology transfers. For India, the mass effect will serve to lower the price of equipment and attract foreign investors.

The "International Solar Alliance" launched in December 2015 by France and India aims to raise $1 trillion for solar power.

Other Carbon-Neutral Energies

Other renewable energies such as wind, biomass, and hydro are being developed in the wake of solar power and in the same spirit, with major international groups invited to participate in their development.

India's wind power capacity is the world's fourth largest, behind China, the United States and Germany. Some of its companies, such as turbine producer Suzlon, are highly efficient and India has managed to lower kWh costs below the €60 mark, which is lower than in Europe.

By 2030, India intends to generate 40% of its electricity from non-fossil energies. This figure includes nuclear energyEnergy produced in nuclear power plants. The enormous amount of heat released during fission of uranium atom nuclei is transferred to water..., with which India has a great deal of experience through its military program.  The country already operates 20 nuclear reactors, has seven under construction and plans for 18 additional reactors. India has developed its own technology and is actively researching fourth generation (fast neutronType of particle, along with the proton, that makes up the nucleus of an atom. Neutrons have no net electric charge.) reactors.

 

 

Sources:

(1) Renewable Energy World

(2) ISA site