In a bizarre move that smacks of unfair public policy making, the Prime Minister has appointed longstanding votary of nuclear energy Anil Kakodkar as the head of the government’s most ambitious, multi-billion rupee, national solar mission.
Kakodkar, former head of India’s nuclear programme and currently a member of the Atomic Energy Commission (AEC), has been named chairman of the newly set up Solar Energy Corporation of India (SECI). The appointment figured in the speech of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh at the Indian Science Congress in Bhubaneswar.
The new government company has been positioned as the executing arm of one of the largest renewable programmes in the world – the Jawaharlal Nehru National Solar Mission. It will have authorised and initial paid up capital totalling Rs.2,600 crore, while implementation of the mission will involve several thousand crores of rupees over the next few years.
Renewable sources of energy are considered the main competitors to nuclear energy, and Kakodkar has always justified development of nuclear energy on the ground that renewables have only a marginal role to play in India’s energy mix. In this sense, his appointment to head the solar mission is a clear case of ‘conflict of interest’. Even after his retirement he continues to be a member of the highest policy making body of nuclear energy, the AEC.
Despite huge investments during the past half a century, nuclear power contributes just a fraction of India’s energy needs. The total installed capacity of nuclear power in the country is 4,780 MW, while the total installed capacity of renewable sources of energy is 20,162 MW, according to data collected by the Central Electricity Authority.