Chanakya IAS Academy Blog


  • India’s push towards development of solar energy began with the Jawaharlal Nehru National Solar Mission.
    • Launched in 2009, the mission aimed at a target of 20GW of solar energy by 2022.
    • In 2015, this target has been increased to 5 times i.e. 100 GW by 2022.
    • This target will principally comprise of 40 GW Rooftop and 60 GW through Large and Medium Scale Grid Connected Solar Power Projects.
  • India's cumulative grid interactive or grid tied renewable energy capacity (excluding large hydro) has reached about 42.85 GW, surpassing the installed capacity of its Hydroelectric power in India for the first time in Indian history.
    • The country has already crossed a mark 26.8 GW of wind and 7.6 GW of solar power installed capacity during May 2016.
  • The projects now under execution include
    • solar rooftop technology-
      • identification of large government complexes/ buildings for rooftop projects; amendments in building bye-laws for mandatory provision of roof top solar for new construction or higher FAR;
    • bringing innovative solar and hybrid technologies to the market
    • transmission lines for solar-rich States
    • development of Green Energy Corridor
    • setting up of exclusive parks for domestic manufacturing of solar PV modules
    • provision of roof top solar and 10 percent renewable energy as mandatory reform under the new scheme of Ministry of Urban Development
    • clear survey of wastelands and identification of transmission/ road infrastructure using satellite technology for locating solar parks;
    • incorporating measures in Integrated Power Development Scheme (IPDS) for encouraging distribution companies and making net-metering compulsory.

Challenges faced in proliferation of solar power

  • Land: The setting up of solar projects requires vast land resources. Land is a scarce resource in India and per capita land availability is low. Hence, allocation of land for solar projects might compete with other uses
  • Weather- The availability of abundant sunshine remains subject to the vagaries of nature. Hence, production in sustained and continuous manner is a challenge
  • Technical difficulties in utilisation of solar energy such as grid stability and storage.
  • High initial investment in setting up of photovoltaic panels
  • Prices of solar power are still not as competitive as thermal power and hydroelectricity
  • Maintenance of solar power plants, especially cleaning of dust on solar panels requires substantial resources such as water, man power etc

WTO Verdict

  • Under, India’s National Solar Mission, to incentivise the production of solar energy within the country, the government under the programme agrees to enter into long-term power purchase agreements with solar power producers, effectively “guaranteeing” the sale of the energy produced and the price that such a solar power producer could obtain.
  • However, a solar power producer, to be eligible to participate under the programme, is required compulsorily to use certain domestically sourced inputs
  • This domestic content requirement was alleged to be discriminatory in nature. United States had dragged India to the WTO on this issue.
  • World Trade Organisation (WTO) panel found that the domestic content requirement imposed under India’s national solar programme is inconsistent with its treaty obligations under the global trading regime. Indian Government has been reported to appeal against the judgement.
  • Hence, Domestic manufacture of solar cells and panels has remained unattractive because cheap imports are available. Thus, domestic manufacturing in solar sector is yet to develop.

Recent Initiatives

  • Renewable Energy roadmap
    • The Government announced in 2015 an ambitious plan to target building up a renewable energy capacity of 175 GW by 2022
    • This includes 100 GW in solar energy, 60 GW of wind Energy, 10 GW from biomass and 5 GW from small hydroelectric projects.
  • Intended Nationally Determined Contributions (INDCs)
    • India pledged as part of its INDCs at the COP-21 in Paris, 2015 to achieve about 40 per cent cumulative electric power installed capacity from non-fossil fuel based energy resources by 2030, with the help of transfer of technology and low cost international finance, including from Green Climate Fund.
    • This pledge demonstrates the country’s commitment to service a major chunk of its energy needs from renewable energy especially solar energy, in the near future.
  • International Solar Alliance
    • India launched an International Solar Alliance (ISA) at the CoP21 Climate Conference
    • The new body, which has invited all countries located fully or partly between the tropics of Cancer and Capricorn to join, is to function from the National Institute of Solar Energy in India, Gurgaon.
    • seeks to share collective ambitions to reduce the cost of finance and technology that is needed to deploy solar power widely; generation and storage technologies would be adapted to the individual countries’ needs.
    • Among the tasks that the Alliance would pursue are, cooperation in training, building institutions, regulatory issues, common standards, and investment including joint ventures.
  • World Bank Support
    • The World Bank pledged $ 1 billion in support of India’s ambitious solar generation plans, its largest financing of solar projects for any country in the world.
    • The World Bank Group also signed an agreement to be the financial partner for the International Solar Alliance. The World Bank will help ISA mobilise a trillion dollars in investments by 2030
    • While the cost of solar power has been declining, one of the biggest obstacles to a scale-up in developing countries has been the high cost of finance for photovoltaic projects. That problem can be addressed by the ISA through the World Bank partnership, as the agreement will help develop financing instruments, reduce hedging costs and currency risks, and enable technology transfer.
  • Draft Solar-Wind Hybrid Policy
    • The Government has sought public comments for a draft National Wind-Solar Hybrid Policy
    • The goal of the policy is to reach wind-solar hybrid capacity of 10 GW by 2022. The policy aims to encourage new technologies, methods and way-outs involving combined operation of wind and solar PV plants.
    • The policy aims at providing a framework to promote large grid connected wind-solar PV system. This would mean optimal and efficient utilisation of transmission infrastructure and land, reducing the variability in renewable power generation, thus, achieving better grid stability.
    • Solar and wind power being infirm in nature impose certain challenges on grid security and stability. Studies have revealed that solar and winds are almost complementary to each other and hybdridation of two technologies would help in minimising the variability
    • Superimposition of wind and solar resource maps show that there are large areas where both wind and solar have high to moderate potential. The existing wind farms have scope of adding solar PV capacity and similarly there may be wind potential in the vicinity of existing solar PV plant.

Way Ahead

  • Strong policy support is necessary to improve domestic manufacture of solar cells
    • Developing a strong solar manufacturing industry is essential for sustained economic growth, and to connect those who never had the boon of electricity.
  • A transparent regime that enables individuals and communities to plug into the grid without bureaucratic hurdles would unlock small-scale private investment.
  • Utilising the experience of Germany, a leader in solar and wind energy, to gain insights into best practices and innovative solutions
  • Using innovations such as roof top and canal top projects to tackle challenges of excess land use
  • Arguably, the strength and reliability of a power grid capable of handling more power than is available are fundamental to induct higher levels of renewable power. The emphasis here must also be on improving transmission lines: the World Bank programme promises to provide the necessary linkage to solar-rich States.
  • Making power grids intelligent to analyse and give priority to use the output of renewables, accurately forecast the weather to plan next day generation, and viability mechanisms for conventional coal-based plants are other aspects that need attention.
  • Innovation in battery technology is a potential gold mine for the solar alliance and for India to exploit.
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