SOLAR MISSION: It’s another nail-biter for India in 2017-18

India faces steep odds in its race to meet its solar power addition targets for the current year.

Last year, the country had added only 5.53 GW of incremental solar power capacity against a target of 6 GW. This year, the target is 10 GW.

However, as of November end, it has added only 3.46 GW of incremental capacity. In other words, with 67% of the time over, the country has achieved only 35% of the target.

As of November end, the total grid-connected solar capacity in India was 15.748 GW. Another 0.863 GW has been installed as independent, rooftop systems. Rooftop targets too are running woefully behind schedule.

Achieving this year’s grid target of 10 GW is crucial for the country to meet its aim of having 100 GW of grid-connected solar capacity by March 2022.

If India adds 10 GW this year, it will have about 22.3 GW total capacity by March 2018, leaving about 77.7 GW to be installed in the remaining four years at a rate of about 19.5 GW per year.

To meet the 2022 target, the government said it is planning to give contracts to private parties to put up 20 GW of solar power generation capacity in the current financial year, most of which will come online next year.

Similarly, it plans to award contracts of 30 GW each in the next two financial years, which would be enough to meet the 2022 target.

NOT TOO LATE?

Despite the poor start for the year, it may be too early to write off India’s chances for the current year.

Last year, for example, the country had a target of adding 6 GW, out of which it managed to add 5.53 GW. Out of this 5.5 GW, 3 GW was added in the final three months of the year.

If a similar trend plays out, the country could add about 6 GW in the final three months (January to March), and easily achieve the 10 GW solar addition target.

GREEN THRUST

Soon after taking over, the new BJP government under Narendra Modi had increased the 2022 Solar Mission target by five times to 100 GW from 20 GW.

The move was in response to the widespread perception that India was falling behind in the adoption of next-generation energy sources.

While India has a target of 10 GW of new solar capacity this year, China is on track to add about 54 GW this year.

The Solar Mission forms part of the government’s attempt to wean India away from fossil-based development to a more sustainable and futuristic model.

Besides the solar and wind thrust, the government is also investing heavily into electric vehicles and pushing auto companies to quickly come up with electric and hybrid models or risk being “bulldozed” by the government.

India currently sees annual sales of around 3.8 mln cars and SUVs and around 16 mln motorcycles and scooters, or a total of about 20 mln vehicles.

Under its National Electric Mobility Mission Plan 2020, the Modi administration wants to convert 6-7 million of these into electric and hybrid vehicles by 2020.

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