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What India Must Do To Lead The World In Solar Power?


Here's some good news. India is emerging as one of the leaders for fighting climate change. This is driven by several innovative solutions. And it's despite (or because of) the initiative to supply the people with electricity 24x7 by 2030.

In fact, there was a clear lead for the country in some estimates. The hope now is that India could easily achieve the target of 40% of its non-fossil based power capacity by 2020. Based on that, the Indian government has also increased its goal of renewable energy capacity to 227 GW from 175 GW.

However, emerging economies like India have to strike a balance between energy generation, deployment while battling other constraints such as development and availability of funds. Here are some challenges faced by India in the task to become a world leader in solar power:

Lack of a Better Solar Power Supply Chain

At present, the solar power supply chain in the country is short of the mark. It needs to be improved to be seamless, transparent, robust and wide-spread if India needs to achieve its target of securing more GW of renewable energy.

Shortage of Investment

There is a shortage of investment to build new solar projects. Bloomberg projects a shortfall of $2.5 trillion of investment in solar through 2040. This is when compared to the level of investment that is needed to meaningfully climate change.

Solar Cell Imports and Exports 

India imported 89% of its total solar cells from China in 2017-18. At current economies, the solar industry is finding Chinese imports more cost-effective as compares to the costs of manufacturing here. However, this dependence on the neighboring country is creating its own roadblocks.

Dipping Solar Power Tariff 

The next big problem is the dipping solar power tariff, which today stands at an average of Rs. 2.44 per unit. Even as tariffs drop, the set-up costs and equipment costs are not decreasing. Solar power producers worry about low ROI and a long time to recover costs.

The good news is that the Indian government is cognizant of many of these issues. Some possible solutions they are looking at to these issues include:

Government of India imposed 25% safeguard duty on Chinese solar cells till July 2019. The same duty is slated to decrease to 20% till January 2020, and then, dip to 15% in July 2020. This can to an extent curb the overdependence on China for solar cells. While this will impact costs in the short term, it could drive up manufacturing in India. As economies of scale set in, the overall cost could also reduce.

The government may take the initiative to lower the costs of solar panel setups and the costs of the equipment. This will give more incentives to individuals and organizations to adopt and switch to solar power.

As a part of its focus, the Government of India is implementing transparent bidding. This will help procure solar power based on a tariff-based competitive bidding process. And under the KUSUM (Kisan Urja Suraksha evam Utthaan Mahabhiyan) Scheme, it has planned to offer 27.5 lakh solar pumps to farmers. This could help them install 10 GW of Solar Power Plants, which will have the capacity of 0.5 to 2MW each.

There is also a wealth of ideas and innovation emerging to inspire change in the sector.

The World Bank is giving India's solar energy dream a push by providing over $1 billion for its solar plans. This includes a Grid Connected Rooftop Solar project, which is for putting solar panels on the rooftops across the country. With the help of this project, 100 MW of energy has already been financed.

Inventive solutions such as Bio-Solar cells are an interesting take in making solar power commonplace and affordable. While research is still, only underway, in this direction, the invention can become a potential resource for supplying long-term power.

Floating Solar Farms made from floating solar panels are another incredible idea that can propel India to adopt solar power on a wide scale. It has already been implemented in nations where there is a lack of space for installing ground-mounted solar systems and soon enough, we could see it happen in India. This could reduce the equipment and setup costs to a large extent and works perfectly for industries that are looking forward to not waste either water or land.

Switching to Perovskite solar cells is another innovation that could pave the way for India to become a leading solar power nation. Known for its excellent light absorption and versatile nature, these cells can help realize solar energy deployment on just about any surface. And that's not all. These cells could cost just 10 to 20 cents per watt, compared to 75 cents per watt for traditional silicon-based panels anywhere from 3X to 8X cost savings.

India may be in the early days when it comes to solar power. But it wants to shoot for global leadership. While many of the innovations and research in solar power are happening in other countries, India is keen to amplify its efforts to leapfrog the world and become the solar leader.