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Solar Power: How India Triggered a Global Revolution


On March 12, 2018, Prime Minister Narendra Modi and French President Emmanuel Macron inaugurated the 75 MW solar plant at Mirzapur in Uttar Pradesh, the largest in the state, built at a cost Rs 500 crore with French collaboration.

A day before, on March 11, at the opening of the first International Solar Alliance (ISA) Summit, the PM called for ensuring cheap and easy availability of solar technology. He said that the solar ratio in the energy mix should be increased and innovation encouraged so that solutions to our needs can be provided. Significantly, the PM called for concessional financing at lower risk for solar projects. He also emphasised that regulatory matters and standards need to be developed to find speedy solutions.

PM Modi has been the force behind the solar revolution unfolding across the globe today. While India is partnering France very closely on this, without the PM’s insistence on a solar future for India’s energy needs (as well as the world’s) the ISA would not exist. Nor would we be witness to 121 prospective countries in the Alliance, about 90 of whom have signed the Framework Agreement.

PM Modi had embarked on this project very early in his tenure. In fact, his promotion of clean and renewable solar power goes back to his days as Chief Minister of Gujarat.

The story above begins with an evocation of what Narendra Modi’s Gujarat had achieved:

Soon after he took office as PM, the international media took note and reports and analyses started pouring in about what PM Modi was trying to achieve. Some of these, such as The Guardian reportage below, may have been sceptical about targets and speed. But not even the critics could deny the magnitude and significance of what the PM was trying to do – for both India and the world:

Below is a World Bank report from June 2016 which praised the PM’s vision and action, laid out what India was trying to do in solar power. The article also discussed how the World Bank was helping the project:

Below are some more excerpts from the World Bank article:

The PM, as always, has been using vision and common sense. He has focused on an innate advantage India possesses. The comment below explains what it is:

The ISA was launched at the India-Africa Summit in October 2015 and it was formalised with the Paris Declaration at the United Nations Climate Change Conference in Paris on November 30, 2015. In between, in his Wembley speech in London, in November 2015, the PM had talked about the need for an inter-governmental organisation to promote solar energy:

At home, the PM’s efforts in boosting solar power in India has been constant and consistent:

As a result of the PM’s efforts, India’s status in solar power has changed drastically in the last three-plus years. Not only is India heading the ISA, but its own original target of 20 GW grid-connected solar power by 2022 – set under the last government — was revised by the Modi government to 100 GW by 2022, seeing the scale and speed of progress.

India has come a long way, achieving more than 18,000 MW by end-January 2018 in installed capacity for solar power, which was only 22 MW in 2011. The solar sector saw the biggest-ever capacity addition of 5,525.98 MW in 2017-18. At the same time, solar tariff declined to a record low of Rs 2.44/ kWh.

End-fiscal 2014-15, India had a cumulative solar energy capacity of 3,743.97 MW. The current cumulative is more than 18,000 MW — far more than earlier. All of this has happened within a span of less than four years, thanks to the push given by the PM.

An interesting aspect of the PM’s vision is emphasis on everyday utilities that can make a big difference. Below is an example:

There is a direct link between this and the larger gameplan:

And the significance?

All along, the PM has been demonstrating that India is committed to its climate change and clean energy goals, even as the question of climate justice is answered and our energy needs are met.

Earlier this year, at Davos, PM Modi pitched India’s solar dreams and ambitions once more, making the case for solar power as well as connecting renewable energy to the fight against climate change:

To round up the consistent efforts at promoting solar power and making India a global leader in it, let us look at what the PM said at the ISA Summit in Delhi:

If the 10-point action plan is the framework the PM laid out, one of the key takeaways was his emphasis on concessional and less-risky solar projects:

Doubtless, the ISA itself is intrinsic to the realisation of India’s ambitions and in converting the world to greater use of solar energy. India, under PM Modi, has asserted its leadership by offering a contribution of Rs 175 crore for the ISA corpus fund and for the cost of the ISA secretariat for an initial five years. The ISA secretariat is on the campus of the National Institute of Solar Energy in Gurugram. With the ISA now a treaty-based organisation, India’s efforts at facilitating funding for solar initiatives will get a boost.

When the ISA was formalised at COP21 in Paris, the PM had invoked India’s heritage and the Sun: “In the Indian tradition, Sun is the source of all forms of energy”. He had said that the world needed to turn to solar power for our future, with economy, ecology and energy converging to define that future.

How is that future shaping up? The following VOA headline offers a clue: