SEATTLE — India, a country of 1.3 billion citizens, is still an emerging economy, and it continues to struggle to provide adequate electrical power throughout the country. Solar power in India could be a solution to increasing access to this important resource.
Electricity outages are common occurrences nationwide and about 300 million people – roughly a quarter of India’s population, lack access to electricity. However, Prime Minister Narendra Modi and the Indian government have prioritized delivering 24-hour electricity access to all 1.3 billion Indian citizens by the end of 2022, in what can be deemed, India’s solar power play. It is a pledge that promises cleaner energy, chiefly solar powered. This translates to an increase from below current capacity of 5 GW to a solar capacity of 100 GW by 2022.
Although Mr. Modi will increase the number of new coal plants, which have been blamed for the catastrophic pollution levels in many parts of the country, The New York Times reports that the Prime Minister has pledged to invest in renewable energy, including solar power in India.
During the December of 2015 climate talks in Paris, Prime Minister Modi and President François Hollande of France initiated an “International Solar Alliance.” Mr. Modi made an initial pledge of $30 million from India, with an ultimate objective to invest $1 trillion in solar technology development by 2030.
Undeniably, India’s solar power play objectives place a high bar; currently, only one percent of its electricity is powered by solar energy, and that is primarily through large plants that supply power to the grid. However, many Indian energy financiers think that providing universal electricity through solar home systems, not a grid, will be the faster, cleaner and a more economical direction for the country to take.
Selco India, a social enterprise focused on sustainable energy solutions, is one of more than 40 companies promoting solar home systems in India. It offers a small panel connected to a battery that stores enough power to run one or more lights and phone chargers. With higher wattage alternatives, there is enough power for small appliances.
Researchers Varun Sivaram, Gireesh Shrimali and Dan Reicher, as well as the co-authors of a paper published by Stanford University’s Steyer-Taylor Center for Energy Policy and Finance that outline a roadmap for India’s solar ambitions said: solar power in India will be extremely beneficial for those living with limited or no access to electricity. However, the high cost is prohibitive because few people can afford even the most modest solar power alternatives.
Varun Sivaram, a fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations, said that achieving 100 GW will not necessarily entail too much new government spending, but instead will require political assurance and smart government intercessions. He also said that he believes that the Indian government is “sincere in their belief that they can achieve this goal, and are willing to do what it takes.” He added: “I get the sense, talking to the Modi administration, that this is a super-high priority, if not priority No. 1.”