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Solar mission needs to rethink the road map, says researcher

According to reports, Jawaharlal Nehru National Solar Mission has failed to appreciate the country’s solar potential as envisaged in national policy on climate change, according to K. Sivadasan, researcher and renewable energy expert.

The policy states that India needs to attain a solar installed capacity of 200 GW by 2050. But need for setting up required infrastructure is not adequately spelt out in the Mission.

The mission document does not also give any option for entrepreneurs to think creatively, Sivadasan, a retired top official of Kerala State Electricity Board, said. It lacks a global vision, too.

The subsidy regime is a root cause for slow progress in growing generation. Entrepreneurs lose enthusiasm once benefits are claimed while the plant needs to operate for its life.

Most nations visualise sustainable growth based on renewable energy. The Mission needs to revise its road map accordingly.

For instance, the target fixed as per the Mission was just 1 GW by 2012 as per the original (2010) guidelines. As against this, Germany was adding around 400 MW every month in 2010.

Germany receives only half as much solar radiation as that of India but has a generation capacity of 34,000 MW compared to the latter’s 2,000 MW.

Growth in solar installed capacity in the European Union mainly came from grid-connected rooftop plants. But India has chosen ‘off-grid’ rooftop plants and large-sized plants.

Present slow progress here can be attributed to the failure to consider grid-connected rooftop potential.

A pragmatic feed-in-tariff regime in rooftop installations will accelerate solar capacity additions, Sivadasan said. Feed-in-tariff refers to payments made out to ordinary energy users for renewable electricity generated by them.

Sivadasan says that the financing model suggested in the Mission is also flawed. What it has spelt out are guidelines based on ‘project mode.’ Here, capital subsidy, accelerated depreciation, rebate on interest, tax concessions and viability gap funding are based on project cost.

This provides avenues to manipulate project reports and generate undue profits for the unscrupulous entrepreneur.

Funds could be instead canalised from the Union Ministry of New and Renewable Energy through viable channels at low interests as mentioned in the policy.

Approvals need to be decentralised. “Let the States handle them as per guidelines of the Union Ministry. After all, power is a State subject,” Sivadasan said.

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