India misses FY19 Solar Power target by 58%

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Govt has set up solarrooftop.gov.in to facilitate installation

India has missed its solar power target by a whopping 58% in the year gone by, according to the latest numbers from the ministry of renewable energy or MNRE.

India was supposed to add about 16,000 megawatt (16 gigawatt) of fresh solar power generation capacity in the year ended March 2019.

However, it added only around 6.73 GW. In comparison, China added 44,000 MW of solar capacity during the year 2018.

The 6.73 GW added in FY19 was also substantially less than the 9.6 GW added in the preceding financial year, while it was supposed to go up.

Out of the 6.7 GW added in FY19, 6.53 GW was added via large, grid-connected solar farms, while an estimated 150-200 MW was added via small, distributed rooftop and other solar installations.

According to India’s Solar Mission, the country is supposed to have around 100 MW of solar power capacity by the end of 2022, out of which around 60 GW is supposed to come from large projects and 40 GW from small, rooftop installations.

To meet this goal, India was supposed to have already installed about 47 GW of power by March 2019, including 31 GW of grid-connected farms and 16 GW of rooftop systems.

Instead of 31 GW of grid-connected farms, India could achieve only 28.18 GW of grid-connected systems by March 2019.

The situation is far worse in the rooftop or distributed segment, which requires the co-operation of individual citizens.

Here, against a target of 16 GW by March 2019, India has been able to achieve only around 0.9 GW, a shortfall of 94%.

To encourage ordinary citizens to install rooftop solar systems, the government provides subsidy up to 30% of the total project cost for consumers who have installed rooftop solar power plants.

It has also set up an online portal where consumers can request for solar rooftop installation at solarrooftop.gov.in, where consumers can invite bids from accredited agents to install such systems.

The targets were set by Prime Minister Narendra Modi soon after he came to power in 2014, and are supposed to reflect India’s commitment towards meeting global goals related to moderating climate change by curbing carbon emissions.

India is one of the world’s biggest emitters of greenhouse gases, though it is among the lowest emitters on a per-capita basis.

Solar power is also supposed to help India meet its national security goals by reducting its dependence on Middle Eastern countries.

PROTECTIONISM

Part of the reason for the sharp deceleration seen in FY19 may be because of the imposition of a 25% anti-dumping duty on solar cells and modules imported from China and Malaysia in July 2018.

This increased costs for developers, who opted to either not bid for new projects or go slow on implementing those that they had bid for.

India currently does not have a single solar wafer manufacturing plant. Solar wafers — the black substance found on solar panels — are very thin slices of crystalline silicon, which is produced by heating sand at very high temperatures.

The basic technology behind the manufacturing of crystalline silicon wafers is as expensive as it is well known. It also requires massive scales to make it economical.

As such, no company in India has ventured into this area. Instead, Indian players have focused on importing wafers and cells and assembling them into modules.

Even in this area, they have not been able to bring down their prices below those of imports from countries such as Vietnam.

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