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World Bank is committed to supporting India’s solar energy push

Over 50 percent of India's Power to Come from Renewables in 10 years.

World Bank Last Updated at 11-06-2018 22:55:17 IST India
World Bank is committed to supporting India’s solar energy push
  • Bank is also supporting India’s UJALA program, through which the country has distributed more than 241 million LED bulbs. (Image Credit: Pixabay)

With 1.3 billion people, India is the world's third largest consumer of electricity. Over 450 million ceiling fans are in use and 40 million sold each year, but 240 million people still have no legal electricity connection. Demand for electricity is growing at the same rate as in France or Germany as millions of people in rural or impoverished areas seek access to power in their homes and workplaces.

The World Bank is committed to supporting India's solar energy push. The Bank is providing more than USD 1 billion to support India's solar plans, starting with a Grid Connected Rooftop Solar project that aims to put solar panels on rooftops across the country, and 100MW of energy has already been financed through this project.

Exactly a year ago, on June 30, 2016, the institution signed an agreement with the International Solar Alliance (ISA), consisting of 121 countries led by India, to collaborate on increasing solar energy use around the world and mobilize USD 1 trillion in investments by 2030.

Solar as a solution

In India and beyond, solar power is starting to displace coal as an energy source. The cost of electricity from solar photovoltaic (PV) is currently a quarter of what it was in 2009 and is set to fall another 66% by 2040. That means a dollar will buy 2.3 times as much solar energy in 2040 than it does today.

With nearly 300 days of sunshine every year, India has among the best conditions in the world to capture and use solar energy. Clearly, the market agrees, as is evident from the significant drop in the cost of solar power. In its latest solar auction, the country achieved a record low tariff of INR 2.44/unit (4 cents/unit) for a project in the desert state of Rajasthan.

The Indian government is setting ambitious targets that include 160 gigawatts (GW) of wind and solar by 2022. Not only will this help hundreds of million people light their homes it will also enable children to study at night, provide families with refrigerators to preserve their food or TVs to entertain themselves after a long day of work. It is also an incentive for international firms to invest in India's solar market.

The Bank is also working with India on solar parks, innovative solutions to store solar power and support for mini-grids. The institution's backing will increase the availability of private financing, introduce new technologies, and enable the development of common infrastructure to support privately developed solar parks across India.

Lighting innovations

In turning to solar, India has sought creative solutions to challenges such as limited land availability to host solar panels for a rapidly growing population. It must go beyond what Morocco has done, for instance, with its concentrated solar power that requires large tracts of land to set up giant mirrors and lenses. So, in addition to its solar parks, India is installing solar panels on rooftops and floating solar platforms on rivers and other bodies of water. It also has ambitious plans to only sell electric cars by 2030.

Over 50 percent of India's Power to Come from Renewables in 10 years

The Bank is also supporting India's UJALA program, through which the country has distributed more than 241 million LED bulbs, making it the largest and the first zero-subsidy national LED lighting program in the world. Residential consumers can get LED bulbs from UJALA distribution centers or through participating retailers and pay upfront or in smaller installments, which make the bulbs more accessible for poorer customers.

The program has helped save more than 6,000 MW of energy and resulted in a 25-million ton reduction in CO2 emissions per year. India plans to replace all of its 770 million incandescent bulbs with LEDs by 2019.

Other countries in the region are also adopting clean energy measures with support from the Bank.

India's efforts demonstrate its serious commitment to mitigate climate change. But more has to happen for millions of the country's citizens to have some of the basic conveniences that electricity provides.

"I have on more occasions than one discussed with world leaders that it's time that the world collectively decides that wherever technologies are focused towards a safer planet, we must try and make it open access… make it available to the whole world, so that we can encourage clean energy (and) sustainability while making it more affordable," said Piyush Goyal, India's Minister of State with Independent Charge for Power, Coal, New and Renewable Energy and Mines, at a recent event in Vienna.

"If we believe in it, and we work towards it collectively, all of us can make a difference."

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