According to reports, three years after Prime Minister Manmohan Singh announced an ambitious plan to generate 20,000 mw of solar power by 2022 under the Jawaharlal Nehru National Solar Mission, the programme is yet to take off in a meaningful way and remains far behind target.
Marred with delays, trade disputes and competition from state-level schemes, the central programme could so far contribute just one-third to the India’s total solar capacity. “The programme is losing on time and offering small capacities.
There is no long-term visibility on the central plan,” said Sunil Jain, managing director at Hero Future Energies, a renewable energy firm of Hero Group. The first phase of the solar mission from 2010-2013 added just 252.5 mw of solar power generation capacity against the targeted 1100 mw.
In the second phase started in 2014, a year later than planned, the government aims to add 10,000 mw solar energy capacity by 2017, under both photovoltaic (PV) and concentrated solar power (CSP) or solar thermal technology.
In a tender floated in January, it bid out PV projects totalling 750 MW, for which it received bids thrice the requirement. “Companies are ready to offer more and government could have easily announced a second bid for the surplus amount,” Jain said.
“The solar mission would hopefully add around 800 MW this year and all states combined are expected to add another 600 MW. So, we are looking at a miniscule 1500 MW of capacity addition in solar this year and all this after when three years of the mission have already been consumed,” he said.
India’s total solar power installation currently stands at 2208 MW, out of which 661 MW has been contributed from projects selected under the national solar mission.
The balance is from the state schemes for solar power development, with 70% coming solely from Gujarat. Madhya Pradesh is looking to add another 800 MW of solar by June 2014.
Several independent power producers are lining up to invest in state schemes that come with offers such as costfree land and tax breaks.
Officials at MNRE are, however, hopeful that the mission would meet its target. “We were actually thinking of scaling up the target to 1 lakh MW by 2022. But it was prudent to first develop a domestic market and stabilise it and then reach for bigger goals,” a senior MNRE official said.
The second phase of the mission was delayed due to trade dispute among the domestic and foreign manufacturers of solar cells, with recurrent changes in the mission guidelines.
A case of dumping of equipments against solar companies of China, US, Malaysia and Taiwan is going on. And the US has filed two complaints against India in World Trade Organisation for safeguarding its domestic industry and restricting competition in JNNNSM guidelines. Analysts said such delays hurt a nascent sector like solar.
“The uncertainty or lull that happened last year is not desirable for a programme of this scale. The bidding in the current phase has undoubtedly been impressive and government needs to keep up with the investment resonance happening in the sector,” a renewable energy market analyst said.