After a quiet quarter and a fairly dull interim budget, the government today launched an ambitious project as part of its climate change policy, falling under two of the missions laid out in the NAPCC: the National Solar Mission and the National Mission for Enhanced Energy Efficiency. Under the Ministry of New and Renewable Energy’s project to increase the use of solar power, Nagpur, a town in the state of Maharashtra, is set to become the first of 60 ‘solar cities’ in India. These cities will source at least 10% of their power consumption from renewable sources and the city will be energy efficient.
It’s well known that India suffers from acute power shortages. As the temperature rises, so does the demand for power, which stresses the already stretched power grids. For example, states like Karnataka depend on a mix of hydroelectric and thermal sources of power and, like Kerala, are dependent on the monsoon for meeting their electricity requirements. A bad monsoon or unexpected rises in temperature (like this year) invariably mean power cuts and load shedding.
As India’s policy on climate change points out, solar power has great potential in India for many reasons. Firstly, we get a lot of sunshine (over 300 days of sunlight a year); secondly solar power distribution can be decentralised, and in that sense it is ‘empowering people at the grass root level’. Thirdly, it will reduce our acute power woes and finally, India’s need for solar power supports innovation, technology transfer and international cooperation. Electrification of rural areas is also electorally powerful.
This project has great potential economically. Renewable energy markets are becoming attractive investments – HSBC’s renewable energy wing is looking to invest heavily in solar and wind projects in Asia and as mentioned earlier, Gujarat’s latest investment summit attracted a number of private partners for renewable energy projects. Supported partly by the recession’s cost cutting nature and burgeoning awareness on environmental and energy management amongst people in India, energy efficiency is becoming more and more important as well. The recession may be good for the eco-realty sector as energy efficient and eco friendly buildings are becoming fashionable. Investing in solar projects like this will bring down the costs involved in setting up solar energy sources as well.
As a government report on India’s energy security recommended in 2006, solar technology is “the only renewable energy source with sufficient potential to meet almost all our energy needs, we should give high priority to [the] development of solar technology”. The plan doesn’t give too many details into the hows and whys, but it comes at an opportune time when power, economic efficiency and the environment are becoming priorities on the Indian consumer’s list.