India is about to witness a massive scaling up of solar power capacity to 100,000 Mw, with Prime Minister Narendra Modi asking the ministry of new and renewable energy (MNRE) to prepare an action plan by November first week.
Aiming to reach this target in five years, before the next general elections, the government is expediting the work by directing states to identify suitable locations across terrains - deserts, wastelands, national highways, river banks and even over canals (as was done in Gujarat).
With Modi at the helm, as the chief minister of Gujarat, the state had become one of the largest contributors in the cumulative renewable energy mix of the country. At 900 Mw, Gujarat is still the largest contributor to the country's total installed solar power capacity of 2,600 Mw.
The Bharatiya Janata Party's election manifesto has also promised a considerable push to clean energy.
The target is five times the target designated under the Jawaharlal Nehru National Solar Mission (JNNSM), one of the key programmes of the earlier United Progressive Alliance government. Large solar projects similar to coal-based ultra mega power projects, solar parks, micro grids and solar rooftops - all would be a part of the project.
MNRE recently announced a draft proposal on bidding for solar projects worth 3,000 Mw - double the original target in JNNSM.
Officials said the total projected amount for this mega plan is Rs 1,00,000 crore for five years, with the per year amount falling to Rs 20,000 crore in two-three years when the price of solar power inches towards grid parity.
"The cost of gas-based power plants has gone up and with coal looking at fresh auctions; thermal power prices would also go up. The current price of solar power production is Rs 6.5 crore per Mw. So, with a viability gap funding (VGF) support of Rs 1 crore per Mw, solar is looking at parity with coal very soon," said a senior government official.
The government, though, would look at all possible models - VGF, power bundling, state support - according to size and type of project.
The average cost of setting up a coal-based power plant is about Rs 3.5-4 crore per Mw and a gas-based plant Rs 5.5 crore per Mw.
MNRE is also setting up a single-window clearance agency to promote investment in solar power. "We have written to major banks in the country to increase their credit limit for the solar power sector. Also, multilateral agencies are also on board to design an investment road map for the 100,000 Mw target," said a senior MNRE official.
MNRE has joined hands with PwC to prepare a report on the execution of the programme, which is likely to be presented to the clean energy enthusiast prime minister by November 4 or 5.
Government officials said agencies such as ADB, KfW, World Bank and US Exim Bank are already a part of the action plan.
Following the directions from the Minister of State for Coal, Power and Renewable Energy Piyush Goyal, the ministry of new and renewable energy is also approaching top 500 private companies and 50 public sector companies, to sign commitment for developing solar power and set a trend for the sector.
|PM'S SOLAR PLAN|