ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Pragmatism or Targetitis?

India's 100GW of Solar by 2022

The Government of India's target of 100 gigawatts of solar power by 2022 reflects two perspectives. One, it embodies a practical need and urgency for solar energy from climate and energy security points of view. The other perspective, however, is that it shows the typical tendency of government authorities to draw up overly ambitious targets and be in a perennial promise mode. While examining the feasibility of this target, this article raises key concerns and offers suggestions on the appropriate land procurement and rooftop policies, as well as manufacturing strategies that need to be drawn up.

The Narendra Modi government has set a target of 100 gigawatts (GW) of solar power capacity by 2022. Solar forms the largest component in the larger target of 175GW by 2022 for renewable energy-based power capacity, which also includes wind, biomass power, and small hydro. Once achieved, the share of re­ne­wable energy in electricity generation will increase to 18.9% from the current level of 7% (MNRE 2015a). An incre­ase in renewable power capacity in general, and solar in particular, is certainly desirable for India. This can reduce dependence on fossil fuels and thereby improve energy and climate security. However, the question is whether the target of 100GW solar by 2022 is realistic or simply “a nice round” number. Has any feasibility study been done before setting the target, or is it an aspiration without basis? Do extra-­ambitious targets enable the government of the day to remain in a perennial promise mode? Or are impossible targets the only way to discover the limits of the possible?

Let us consider this 100GW target for 2022 in perspective. The target has two parts: 60GW of utility scale projects and 40GW will be of rooftop solar. As per the Ministry of New and Renewable Energy (MNRE 2015b), as of 30 September 2015, India has a solar installed capacity of 4.3GW, of which utility scale solar contri­buted around 90%, the rest coming from rooftop solar.1 As much as 99% of India’s current solar capacity has been created in the last four and half years.2 In 2014–15, there was a solar capacity addition of 1.1GW.3 An achievement of 100GW by 2022 would require multiplying the current capacity by nearly 23-fold in the next 6.5 years. The 100GW target is five times more than the Jawaharlal Nehru National Solar Mission (JNNSM) target set in January 2010. The JNNSM had then set a target of 10GW solar capacity by the end of the Twelfth Five Year Plan, that is, 2017, and 20GW by the end of the next five-year plan, that is, 2022 (MNRE 2012).

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