National Solar Mission targets achievable but challenging

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The recently launched Jawaharlal Nehru National Solar Mission has successive three stages leading up to an installed capacity of 20,000 MW by the end of the 13th Five Year Plan in 2022. The solar mission states to achieve off grid solar applications of 200 MW by 2013; 1,000 MW by 2017; and 2,000 MW by 2022. In utility grid power, including rooftop, it targets 1,000-2,000 MW by 2013; 4,000-10,000 MW by 2017; and 20,000 MW by 2022. This target is achievable but challenging, say industry insiders.

By Jesus Milton Rousseau S.

Saturday, April 17, 2010: “The target envisaged is quite achievable; all it needs is enabling policy framework and strong industry participation,” says Dr Rajiv Arya, CEO, Moser Baer Photo Voltaic Ltd. “During the first phase, the mission aims to achieve rapid scale up to drive down costs, spur domestic manufacturing, and to validate the technological and economic viability of different solar applications. This will be done by promoting solar water heating and rooftop PV applications/PV panels and establishing pilot demonstration projects to promote technology development and cost reduction. This would include both solar PV utility and solar thermal utility plants,” explains Arya.

The second and third phase of the mission would focus on scaling up validated applications. This would include pilot deployment of next generation technologies like dish stirling, concentrated solar power, thin film PV and storage systems. “This will further enable achievement of tariff parity with conventional grid power reaching an installed capacity of 20 GW by 2020,” adds Arya.

Agrees Ravi H Heblikar, director, Akash Solar Alternative Energy Pvt Ltd, “India can definitely achieve the target set by the mission. But we needs a strong political will to do it.” Dr Madhusudan Atre, president, Applied Materials India, also believes that the targets are achievable but challenging.

Government roadmap

The seriousness of the government in achieving the set target is evident from its approach in setting up the roadmap for the solar mission. The government is actively engaging with the industry players and taking due cognizance of their suggestions while formulating the policies. “Currently the government is dwelling on zero import duty on capital equipment, raw materials, excise duty exemption, low interest rate loans, priority sector lending and other such initiatives, which will help promote solar energy. The government is also helping the players to embark on R&D activities which will help India bridge the gap that exists between different players in this space. The national solar mission imposes a mandatory solar power purchase obligation as a part of the renewable purchase obligation (RPO),” informs Arya.

Heblikar believes that the government should start creating resources to achieve the target. “There is no better way than giving tax benefits to consumers as well as to companies to achieve this.”

N Jegatheswarar Moorthy of Powertec Control Instruments is of the opinion that the government should help the solar companies by giving them necessary support for production. “It should also help in marketing solar products to create awareness among the public about the use of solar energy products. People should also be made aware of the new trends in the solar sector,” he says. Moorthy is concerned that the government policies and measures are still at the theoretical level. “Government needs to take serious measures to implement the policies and promote solar products as an alternative to the traditional ones. Instead, the Ministry of New and Renewable Energy (MNRE) is trying to push the solar equipment market,” he adds.

Industry’s vital role

The industry has a vital role to play in achieving the solar mission target. Solar companies would need to rapidly expand their capacities in both solar module and cell of both crystalline silicon and thin film technologies. These companies would need to invest adequately in R&D activities to be able to achieve the set targets and compete globally. “Moser Baer India has been traditionally associated with technological innovation and we intend to continue to do so and ramp up our total capacity to 1 GW as soon as possible,” adds Arya. T Praveen Kumar, managing director, Signion Systems (P) Ltd, feels that the focus needs to be on the enlightened corporate customers who can afford it.

It is also important to bring down the costs of solar power by improving efficiency, lowering manufacturing costs, increasing scale, reducing balance-of-systems costs, etc. Greater collaboration and exchange of knowledge between government, industry and academia will help in mitigating these challenges, points out Atre. Moorthy adds, “Government should give electricity bill incentive, sales tax relaxation, income tax incentive and soft loans to those who use solar lights.”

The solar energy mission can be a success only if it gets entrenched in everyday life of the consumers. “Allied solar product companies can act as a catalyst in the solar energy revolution,” says Arya.  Media also has a crucial role to play by creating awareness and highlighting the advantages of solar energy to consumers, says Heblikar.

Says Arya, “Every new technology brings with it a set of doubts for the consumers. Here Indian media can play an important role in familiarising the consumer with the technology and spreading awareness about the advantages of using solar devices. This would help dispel doubts from the consumer’s mind making them more open towards it,” says Arya.

Grid parity

The solar mission will also ensure that India reaches its grid parity. With the growing market, large volume of manufacturing and increasing conversion efficiency can help India reach grid parity faster. Arya cites, “Large volume manufacturing will lead to ancillary manufacturing which, in turn, will lead to reduction on manufacturing costs. The other important aspect would be to increase the conversion efficiency in both crystalline silicon and thin film technologies. If the market continues to grow and develop at the current pace, grid parity could be achieved by 2015-17.” Moorthy adds, “Within the next two to three years, with the government implementing proper rules and regulations, grid parity can be achieved fast.” However, Kumar feels investing in renewable energy will make sense only if the investment horizon is 15-20 years. “Unfortunately, not many think so far into the future,” he adds.

Hurdles to cross

  • The main drawbacks of the government policies on solar energy sources are:
  • Lack of genuine interest to find out alternative and innovative technology
  • Government should encourage solar companies all over India
  • Government should come in terms with the present trends of solar and accept them as per the new technology
  • Government should give opportunities and be open to all solar companies in the Indian market
  • The complicated methods of registration process have to be changed and a single window process to be adopted
  • Tax benefits and soft loan should be given for those purchasing solar products
  • Government should take measures to create awareness among the public about the use of solar energy

Electronics Bazaar, South Asia’s No.1 Electronics B2B magazine


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