India willing to take the lead in renewable energy transition by raising 2022 solar target to 100 GW

India is to increase fivefold its solar power capacity target for 2022, surging from 22 GW to 100 GW. The revision of the target set in 2009 under the Jawaharlal Nehru National Solar Mission (JNNSM) was officially announced by Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Wednesday (June 17), although the target had already been introduced upon previous occasions. The new target consists of 40 GW from rooftop solar and 60 GW from large and medium utility-scale projects connected to the grid. This figures imply a massive growth of the solar power capacity in the country, which recently passed 4 GW.

The action plan that was outlined in a press release calculated a total investment of around $ 94 billion. The plan entails the participation of a number of stakeholders, including State governments and private investors, to contribute to the attainment of this very ambitious target.

A share of the investment ($ 2.5 billion) will be given in form of capital subsidy for rooftop solar installments in various cities and towns through the Viability Gap Funding (VGP) scheme and for off-grid generation through small solar projects.  A larger sum ($ 15 billion) will be created using a bundling mechanism with thermal power in the sale of electricity to distribution utilities. This system consists of selling together energy from relatively expensive solar power and cheaper conventional power to the energy distributor at a weighted average price. In this way is possible to reduce the impact of the price of solar and ensure the purchase of solar-generated electricity.

As the press release reports, the programme will also rely on the contribution of international financing mechanisms such as the Green Climate Fund that will make a significant contribution to help achieve the target. It is calculated that the solar target would generate an emission abatement worth more than 170 million tonnes of CO2, making it highly attractive for international low-carbon finance mechanisms.

The inherent geographical attractiveness of the solar power sector in India and the current favorable environment have sparked massive investments from international solar companies. On Monday (June 22) a group of foreign investors reportedly committed to a $ 20 billion investment in Indian solar projects.

Besides the environmental benefits deriving from the switch to renewable energy, the solar programme hopes to spur the local solar manufacturing industry and create further employment.

Among energy pundits the new target is seen as very ambitious and some have questioned its achievability. However, it is believed that setting such a high target will generate positive impacts for the solar market and will put India at the forefront of the renewable energy transition.

While the level of commitment is not matter of discussion, the scarce incentives to decentralize energy production have drawn some criticism. Chandra Bhushan, from Delhi-based non-profit Centre for Science and Environment, said to Down To Earth: “The biggest social and economic impact of renewable energy will be providing clean energy to the energy deprived. But there are no incentives focused on developing decentralized energy-access solutions”. This seems to be a relevant issue for India’s future energy strategy, considering that, according to the World Bank data, one every four citizens throughout the country does not have access to electricity.

(Image: India One Solar Thermal Power Plant, Aburoad, Rajashtan, India. Photo credit: India One/Wikicommons)