India to Spend $900 Million on Solar
Nov 20, 2009
- Vakas Bajaj - The New York Times - Green Inc.
worker arranges the photovoltaic cell components of a solar module panel at a
factory near Bangalore.|
Ending months of speculation
about exactly what it was planning to do to boost the use of renewable sources
of energy, India said this week that it will spend about $900 million on solar
The Indian cabinet approved a plan on Thursday that sets out to
increase energy production from solar technology to 20 gigawatts by 2022, up from
six megawatts today. The government will spend about 43 billion rupees ($922 million)
in the first of three phases of the program. The total cost for all three phases
could approach $20 billion.
The government had signaled its intention to
invest more heavily in solar technology earlier this year, but had been reluctant
to share details. Its latest announcement comes less than three weeks before world
leaders are set to meet at Copenhagen to discuss climate change.
Indian policy makers have softened their tone on the meeting, they are adamant
that they will not agree to any mandated reductions in emissions and have said
any targets should be calculated on a per capita basis, something that the United
States and other Western powers have resisted.
While India’s stated target
for solar power appears ambitious — the United States had nine gigawatts of solar
energy capacity at the end of last year — there is significant skepticism about
whether the country can meet that target.
India has been very slow to add
conventional electricity generating capacity. Government officials estimate that
they will fall 20 percent short of their target for new power capacity for the
five years that end in 2012. Many Indians have only intermittent power and most
industrial users build their own captive power plants to ensure that they have
a continuous supply of electricity.
Another big challenge will be reducing
the cost of solar power to make it relatively competitive with coal, which is
India’s main fuel for power plants. In India, power produced by solar cells costs
about 2 and a half times as much as power from coal. The Indian government will
likely have to subsidize makers of solar equipment for some time if it wants to
achieve its target. The country already subsidies fuels like diesel, kerosene
and petroleum for drivers and household use.