Narendra Modi Plans To Bring Solar To 400 Million People, Electrify Rural India

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Narendra Modi at India Economic Summit 2008 Credit: World Economic Forum | CC BY-SA 2.0

India’s new government, led by Narendra Modi, plans to use solar power to bring electricity to the homes of 400 million people who currently do not have access to it. This announcement comes after BJP’s historic election win last week by securing clear majority.

According to a report filed by Bloomberg, the Bharatiya Janata Party-led government would further enhance its commitment to aggressively implement the National Solar Mission that aims to install 20,000 MW of grid-connect solar power capacity and 2,000 MW of distributed solar power capacity by 2022.

Distributed solar power could prove to be extremely crucial for India’s power sector and economic development. The country’s power transmission and distribution is plagued with serious infrastructural flaws which were comprehensively demonstrated by two of the largest power blackouts in world history in July 2012.

A substantial amount of electricity generated is transmission and distribution inefficiencies as well as power theft. But such hurdles cannot become justifications to keep almost half of India’s population from getting access to electricity. A comprehensive off-grid solar power policy would not only deliver the promise of electrifying India’s rural areas but would also reduce the burden on the ailing power sector.

Power generation companies are struggling to procure cheap and adequate coal and gas to generate electricity. The power distribution companies are struggling to keep themselves financial afloat with a whopping $48 billion debt accumulated over years of inefficient operation.

Under such circumstances it would be unwise to put additional burden on the country’s power infrastructure which has become ‘too big to fail.’

Narendra Modi is known for implementing innovative solutions to complex problems. During his tenure as Chief Minister of Gujarat, he aggressively promoted renewable energy in Gujarat and now he plans to replicate the same in the rest of India. Gujarat has been the leader in solar power generation with installed capacity of over 900 MW representing over a third of the total solar power capacity installed in India.

Gujarat oversaw the development of the world’s biggest solar park, in Charanka village, which has an installed capacity of 500 MW. Under his tenure, the Gujarat government also launched a rooftop feed-in tariff scheme under which 50 government office buildings and 500 private buildings would be equipped with solar panels to generate 5 MW of solar power. The first-of-its-kind Narmada 1 MW pilot canal-top solar power project got commissioned in 2012. The project generates 1.6 million units of clean energy per annum and also helps prevent evaporation of 9 million litres of water annually.

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