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India On Track to Achieve Solar Power Target

MUMBAI – India is on track to add 1.1 gigawatt of grid-connected solar-power generation capacity by 2013, as part of its target to reach 20 gigawatt of solar power by 2022, Renewable Energy Secretary Deepak Gupta said Monday.

The South Asian nation has set an ambitious target for solar energy generation – which at present only accounts for a small portion of the country’s power portfolio – to help cut down carbon emissions, trim peak-hour power shortages and bring electricity to millions of rural households.

“The solar mission has several immediate and long-term objectives. It is very specifically designed to meet India’s needs,” Mr. Gupta said at a solar conference.

He said the government has awarded 184 megawatt of grid-connected solar projects so far, which are expected to be built by September 2011. Bids have been invited for projects totaling 620 megawatts of generation capacity and the government will invite bids for 300 megawatts within a month.

Tenders will be awarded in the coming months.

The government is offering scores of fiscal incentives to attract companies set up solar power plants. About a tenth of India’s 167-gigawatt installed generation capacity is based on renewable sources. A major part of the renewable capacity is wind-based, while solar-based is just around 15 megawatts.

Ernst & Young said in a report released earlier in 2010 that India’s power supply deficit, an increasing need for energy security and rising environmental concerns are driving a critical need for a larger role of renewable energy options in the country’s energy mix.

Mr. Gupta said the solar mission’s objective is to reduce the cost of solar energy and help price discovery of renewable energy in India.

Power produced by solar photovoltaic plants is more expensive than conventional coal-generated power. Solar-generated electricity has a tariff of around 18 rupees ($0.4) per kilowatt hour, whereas power from coal-fired plants located at pit head sites–close to mines–costs around 1.7 rupees per kilowatt hour and imported coal-based power costs up to 2.6 rupees per kilowatt hour.

The Indian government aims to reduce solar power generation costs by raising large-scale domestic manufacturing of solar photovoltaic equipment and by encouraging investment in research and development.

The government has authorized state-run power producer NTPC Ltd. to bundle costly solar energy with electricity produced by coal-fired plants while provincial governments have an obligation to buy a quota of their power from renewable sources.

Source: Wall Street Journal

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