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Clean power need gives India's solar mission a boost

Aug 29, 2008 - Times of India

The government is looking to get India's 'national solar mission' underway with steps to set up research-industry partnerships, tariff structures and tax breaks to citizens aimed at promoting competitiveness and even seed 'solar valleys' for largescale energy generation.

The recognition that solar power represents a huge untapped potential for relatively clean energy saw PMO call a meeting on Tuesday to discuss what could be done to make this form of energy more viable in the Indian context where there is an abundance of sunshine through most of the year.

A part of the national climate change policy, the solar mission targets 10,000MW installed capacity by 2020, a figure which officials hope can be further augmented. The mission would focus on reducing the high costs of photovoltaic cells, which have to be replaced regularly and make it prohibitive for individuals and corporates to consider solar power.

The agenda to promote solar power includes framing banking policy for priority sector lending for households who adopt such options. Targets could also be set for new concerns drawing more than 500 KW to ensure a certain percentage is set aside for solar generation and may be mandated in select public utilities and private services through legislation.

The possibility of taking a page out of the Silicon revolution by planning 'solar valleys' is quite beguiling even though it sounds futuristic. These special zones would be a confluence of research and industry and are part of the government's efforts to achieve "grid parity" by 2017 and will require big funding — which the government feels can be attracted — to make the scheme workable.

The big challenge before the mission remains ensuring subsidies do not kill the appetite for competition since maintenance and replacement of batteries are an expensive option for users.

This needs the attention of researchers for developing new materials and processes to keep sight of the government's objective of ensuring that subsidies are "incentives for delivery" and not "props" that industry and users get habituated to.


Updated: 2003/07/28