|Fig. 1: Prime Minister Narendra Modi at the 2008 World Economic Summit in India. (Source: Wikimedia Commons)|
In 2014, after his election into office, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced his ambitious "Make in India" initiative to accelerate growth in India's manufacturing industry while concurrently pursuing a renewable energy platform that aims to achieve a total of 175 GW produced by solar, wind, biomass and hydroelectric projects by 2022.  Of the 100 GW targeted for solar, 40 GW is expected to be achieved through the deployment of decentralized rooftop projects, 40 GW through utility-scale solar plants, and 20 GW through ultra-mega solar parks.  Although it is unlikely that India will be able to reach Modi's lofty solar energy goals, this clean energy initiative will help to facilitate sustainable economic growth. Fig. 1 shows Modi giving a speech at the World Economic Forum, in which he addresses India's future in renewable energy.
In 2014, India was the fifth largest coal producer in the world, with about 412.1 million tons of coal produced. Additionally, India was the third largest coal consumer in the world, behind China and the USA.  Coal currently meets 55% of India's energy needs. In a rapidly developing country such as India, the tendency is for these countries to rely on coal due to the relatively inexpensive cost to produce coal. Consequently, the main challenge to the solar power initiative is the high cost associated with solar projects. In addition to the high production of coal, in 2014 India invested 7.40 billion dollars in the Indian market for rapid development of renewable energy, which was 14% greater when compared to the year 2013.  These investments go towards solar panels, which are mostly imported from China. India needs as much as $200 billion to meet its target of installing 100 GW of solar power capacity and 60 GW of wind power capacity by 2022.  Although India is far from achieving the ambitious goal proposed by Prime Minister Modi, the significant investment in renewable energy shows that India is making a concerted effort to develop in an environmental sustainable manner.
There are a variety of ways to convert sunlight into electricity, but the most popular form is by installing rooftop solar panels. India's goal is for 40 GW of energy from its decentralized rooftop projects, and these solar panels for rural homes in India use photovoltaic cell technology. PV technology is identified as most environment friendly technologies, requiring only sunlight and no other energy fuel to convert sunlight into power.  This technology is also modular in design, so that the electric capacity can be increased to meet additional demand. It is easy to dismantle and reconfigure these solar power systems for other applications and requires little maintenance. In India, this system of rural electrification will require enhancements in the current grid system, incorporating PV technology.  The climate for this technology must be arid to maintain efficiency and durability, which is why most PV electric grid distribution efforts have been concentrated in southern India where the climate is most agreeable and not affected by wind and rain.  The Indian government's solar programs have targeted these areas for solar energy development, working towards its policy goal.
The benefits of solar energy in India are manifold. For one, it will help to reduce Indias pollution problem, since PV technology is the cleanest form of renewable energy. Solar energy can be used for variety of purposes like as heating, drying, cooking or electricity, which is suitable for the rural areas in India. Furthermore, since India is a power deficit country, it will need to rapidly increase its electric capacity to meet the growing demand. Therefore, renewable energy technology like solar PV offers significant contribution and the technology enhances the ecological sustainability of India's development.
India has a lot of potential to expand its renewable energy industry along with the manufacturing industry. Although Indian PM Narendra Modi is primarily a politician, and thus has the tendency to make hefty promises with mixed results, any development to promote sustainable energy is a move in the right direction. Hopefully India will come close to meeting its renewable energy goals by 2022.
© Keagan Hanley. The author warrants that the work is the author's own and that Stanford University provided no input other than typesetting and referencing guidelines. The author grants permission to copy, distribute and display this work in unaltered form, with attribution to the author, for noncommercial purposes only. All other rights, including commercial rights, are reserved to the author.
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