The Indian government continues to push proliferation of solar power through publicly owned companies, this time through the world’s largest coal mining company – Coal India Limited.
Coal India is planning to develop solar power plants across various states of India. According to media reports, the company is in talks with Ministry of New and Renewable Energy (MNRE) for the development of 1,000MW solar power plants. The site identification for putting up of solar plants has already been initiated. Coal India will undertake investments of $1.2 billion for this initiative.
Coal companies are always under pressure from various environmental groups to source their coal in a more ethical and environmentally friendly way to cut pollution. The situation of Coal India Limited is, however, somewhat better than the other coal companies of the world in terms of overall carbon footprint. Though being criticized for consistently failing to meet India’s annual coal production targets, Coal India is known for its sound environmental policies to keep check on greenhouse gas emissions in its production process.
Recently, another Indian coal mining company – Neyveli Lignite Corporation – announced its plans to invest $80 million to develop 80MW of wind and solar power capacity.
The current initiative of Coal India would also definitely help the country to reach Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s plan to provide electricity to all homes and industrial units round-the-clock with an investment target of $100 billion in renewable energy including solar and wind.
Another reason for promotion of renewable energy infrastructure, especially solar power projects, through government-owned companies is the leverage to use domestically manufactured solar photovoltaic (PV) modules and equipment. Some specific clauses in the WTO agreements to subsidize solar power projects by the army, railways, and public sector enterprises. As per the plan drawn up by the government, the Indian army and public sector companies will set up 1,000MW solar PV projects each. The government is planning to promote the use of domestically manufactured equipment following its decision not to impose anti-dumping duties on imported equipment.
In July this year, India had doubled the tax on every metric ton of coal mined or imported in the country. The revenue generated from the coal tax would finance the National Clean Energy Fund (NCEF) which would be utilised for the development of renewable energy projects, environmental projects and research and development projects.
Image credit: Nitin Kirloskar | CC BY 2.0
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