60 solar cities: Is industry geared up to meet this target?

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By Richa Chakravarty

There is need for a comprehensive approach that looks into all the loopholes that affect the speedy implementation of this programme

To reduce our dependence on conventional fossil fuels, the Ministry of New and Renewable Energy (MNRE), during the 11th Plan period, has proposed to establish 60 solar cities, including four model solar cities and 10 pilot solar cities. So far, the government has given its approval to develop 36 solar cities and a master plan for each solar city is being prepared to assess and utilise various renewable sources of power, including solar energy, wind energy and municipal waste.

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Chandigarh heads the list

Among the various cities that have been included in this programme, Chandigarh is a frontrunner. Chandigarh administration has decided to set up a solar cell that will offer consultancy to the concerned to help tap solar energy in upcoming buildings. While The Energy and Resources Institute (TERI) has drafted the action plan to transform Chandigarh into a solar city, the project will be funded by the Government of India. The report submitted by TERI points out energy efficiency measures that can save up to 20 per cent of power in the residential as well as commercial sectors.

Financial aid

MNRE will be providing financial support of up to Rs 5 million for each solar city to the respective city governments. This grant is to prepare the master plan and set up institutional arrangements to implement it, as well as to create awareness and initiate capacity building activities. The aid of Rs 5 million will be spread over four stages—the preparation of the master plan (up to Rs 1 million), setting up of the solar city cell in the city (up to Rs 1 million ), the oversight of its implementation (up to Rs 1 million), and organising other promotional activities (up to Rs 2 million).

What’s the reality?

According to the report, ‘in principle’ approval has been given to 14 cities last year, adding up to a total of 48 cities, which include Agra, Gandhinagar, Surat, Nagpur, Kalyan-Dombiwali, Thane, Aurangabad, Indore, Gwalior, Bhopal, Imphal, Kohima, Dimapur, Dehradun, Haridwar-Rishikesh, Gurgaon, Faridabad, etc. However, the approval is only on paper and the execution of this plan still seems a distant reality.

Suggests Raghunandan, vice president, engineering, Kotak Urja Pvt Ltd, “The plan seems to be a good idea as it will help in the conservation of energy. While converting energy through UPS systems and batteries, 30 per cent of efficiency is wasted; hence, conserving and harvesting energy through this model is good. Having said that, I feel the industry and the market is not yet geared up for such a programme. There is a need for a comprehensive approach, and standards need to be set for both short and long term activities.” While reviewing one of the master plans, he states, “With due respect to all the big names involved in formulating the plan, it still has loopholes when it comes to implementation. Along with the solar energy industry, the electrical and electronics industries also need to be in sync so that the mission is successful. Thus it is necessary to have proper guidelines.”

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