Indian Prime Minister, Narendra Modi, has revised his target for solar energy upward. Although India gets twice as much sunshine as many European countries that use solar power, its renewable energy source contributes less than 1 percent to India’s energy mix. Modi now wants companies from China, Japan, Germany, and the United States to lead investments of $100 billion over seven years to boost India’s solar energy capacity by 33 times to 100,000MW, according to Upendra Tripathy, the top official in the Ministry of New and Renewable Energy. It would raise solar’s share of India’s total energy mix to more than 10 percent, while in Germany, a leader in renewable energy, solar accounted for about 6 percent of total power generated in 2014.
Among all the global companies, Canadian Solar and JA solar are looking at making cells or modules - used in solar panels - in India; JinkoSolar Holdings said India’s recent announcements have also raised their interest; U.S.-based First Solar and SunEdison Inc have sizeable businesses in India, and together with local firms will invest $6 billion in India for the fiscal year to March 31. Among First Solar's top projects are two plants with Kiran Energy Solar Power and Mahindra Solar One totaling 50 MW in Rajasthan. SunEdison is working on a 39MW project in India and hopes to participate in the solar expansion plan. Tripathy expects new and existing companies to invest about $14 billion annually starting next fiscal year through to 2022.
Solar energy in India costs up to 50 percent more than power from sources like coal. But the government expects the rising efficiency and falling cost of solar panels, cheaper capital and increasing thermal tariffs to close the gap within three years. To create sufficient demand, power distributors will have to raise renewable energy purchases to 8 percent from 3 percent by 2020. There is also a plan to require new thermal plants to have a 10 percent renewable mix, which they can generate or buy from solar companies as credit.
India installed 2.1 gigawatts of grid-connected renewable power, including 1.3GW of wind power, 430MW of solar power, and 340MW of hydro, biomass, and bagasse co-generation, from April to December last year, according to the Ministry of New & Renewable Energy. Now, India has a target to add 3.7 gigawatts of grid-connected renewable power by the end of its financial year in March. Meanwhile, the nation added 105 megawatts of non-grid connected renewable power until December.