Policy & Politics

Published on January 25th, 2015 | by Smiti Mittal

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India To Propose Global Collaboration In Solar Power R&D To Cut Costs

January 25th, 2015 by  

In an attempt to boost its image as a global leader in the solar power market, India is planning to propose a collaboration among nations to promote research and development with an aim to reduce costs.

Narendra Modi Vibrant Gujarat

Prime Minister Narendra Modi at Vibrant Gujarat Summit 2015

The Indian Prime Minister, Narendra Modi, has floated this idea among his council on climate change. According to the information provided by the ministry for environment and forests following the council’s first-ever meeting, the Prime Minister proposed the countries with high solar energy resource should come together to form an international group and accelerate R&D efforts.

The timing of this proposal and the idea itself is very interesting.

Solar photovoltaic (PV) modules prices have fallen significantly over the last few years. This has also led to a mind-boggling decline in solar power generation costs. The tariff bid placed by Saudi Arabia’s ACWA Power for a 100 MW solar PV project is a clear example to the extent to which the cost of generation has fallen. The successful bid of $59 per MWh is the lowest ever anywhere in the world.

This bid is only slightly above what several Indian project developers have quoted for project auctions under the National Solar Mission as well as several state-level auctions. With auctions for several gigawatts of capacity planned in the short- to medium-term it is highly likely that Indian developers would set a new record for the lowest-ever PV bid.

The solar PV tariffs in India have fallen from around $280 per MWh to around $80 MWh over the five years. So one would wonder what is the need of this collaborative effort to further reduce the costs?

The answer may lay in the fact that India plans to have an installed solar power capacity of 100 GW by 2022. In order to add about 97 GW capacity over the next 6-7 years India would require about $80 billion dollars. Naturally, most of this capital would have to come from international sources. One would assume that it would be easier to get access to such large amounts of investments as a lobby rather than going at it alone. If such a collaboration among nations is undertaken India would be the largest market alongside China, which also has a target of 100 GW by 2020.

The other interesting aspect is the timing of the proposal. 2015 is the year the world is expected to agree on a new climate change treaty. The new treaty is expected to be negotiated and approved in Paris during the climate change conference planned for December.

During the meeting of the council on climate change the attending members also agreed that India would not be proposing any absolute targets to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Instead the government has been asked to quantify the emission reduction achieved through the existing capacity and capacity yet to be commissioned.

Several developing countries are expected to take the same approach as they look to defect any pressure from the developed countries to take up mandatory emission reduction targets. India would like to push its position more effectively through a coalition of countries. Such a collaboration on solar energy is also important to India as it now stands isolated amongst the BASIC group of countries.

The Indian Prime Minister is known for his out-the-box approach towards solving big problems. The proposal for an international solar energy collaboration, with a possible alternative agenda, may very well be the latest example of his witty approach towards issues of national interest.

Image Credit: Narendra Modi via Flickr


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About the Author

works as a senior solar engineer at a reputed engineering and management consultancy. She has conducted due diligence of several solar PV projects in India and Southeast Asia. She has keen interest in renewable energy, green buildings, environmental sustainability, and biofuels. She currently resides in New Delhi, India.



  • Raahul Kumar

    R & D can slash the cost of solar power dramatically. Just this month, Next Big Future covered Graphene having 60% efficiency. A silicon solar cell tops at 20%.

    In addition, Concentrated Solar Photovolataic, Thermal can make a huge difference.

  • Rob G

    R&D is a big waste of time – get building guys, solar is already the cheapest form of energy. The simple act of mass manufacturing alone will bring costs down further still.

    • Bob_Wallace

      A year and a half ago a solar project in India was priced out at $1.55/watt. That’s lower than what we’re doing now in the US.

      http://cleantechnica.com/2013/07/26/indian-solar-power-plant-100-mw/#comment-978218226

      People should not forget, Under their Chief Minister Narendra Modi the state of Gujarat installed significant amounts of solar. Prime Minister Narendra Modi is a strong solar backer.

      ETA: Here’s a piece on a very large solar project that Modi backed a couple years ago. The largest solar array in Asia. 600 MW.

      http://www.narendramodi.in/cm-to-dedicate-600-mw-solar-power-generation-capacity-to-the-nation/

      • Rob G

        No doubt about it Modi has been a very positive force for solar and wind. I am a bit unsettled that one of his best mates is Mr Adani (aka MR COAL), but given here in Australia our politicians have bent to the will of coal we are in no position to point fingers.
        Today in the state of Queensland we may very well see a massive vote against the ruling pro coal politicians. Times are a changing.

  • Raahul Kumar

    One of the things that annoys me is that Modi hasn’t realised that coal has large costs in air pollution, life expectancy, and climate change effects like hurricanes. If you consider all the costs of coal, it is not a bargain.

    I don’t expect coal to be built though. For the exact same reasons that even the mighty Communist Party of China couldn’t build coal. The stength and amount of protests over coal is too much to handle for Modi’s government, who caved when faced with a few thousand protesters. It’s going to be protests in the hundreds of thousands for coal though.

    Bharat needs to focus on hydropower from Bhutan, Nepal, Sikkim and all the mountainous areas. Along with solar and thorium, we can completely replace coal.
    That argument needs to be made strongly to Modi, on an international, local and consistent level, denying him the easy out of coal.

  • sjc_1

    Leadership can propose ideas then see if they are popular. If there is something to be gained by the other countries, shared R&D could work.

  • Will E

    Solar and Wind is cheaper faster more reliable, warsave, terrorist save, terrorist nuke attack compared to terrorist solar panel attack. working together is next big thing in advancing high speed Solar and Wind.

    • Simple Indian

      Renewables save precious WATER.

      • Larmion

        I’m playing the devil’s advocate here, but so does a fossil fuel plant with dry cooling and a closed working fluid cycle. Those are quite common in South Africa and other dry nations. It’s costly and not very efficient, but it works.

        There are a lot of good reasons to choose renewables, but water isn’t necessarily one of them.

        • Ronald Brakels

          If I were to play with the Devil’s avacados, then I would say if dry cooling is costly and inefficient then it sounds like water is a good reason to develop renewables.

  • JamesWimberley

    “India would not be proposing any absolute targets to reduce greenhouse gas emissions… Several developing countries are expected to take the same approach as they look to deflect any pressure from the developed countries to take up mandatory emission reduction targets.”

    At least Modi now realizes India has a major, major problem coming up in Paris. Let’s pray that his current ostrich policy will fail. The pressure to adopt hard emissions cuts is not just from “developed countries”; it’s a global near-consensus, as became clear in New York and Lima. Following the bilateral deal with the USA, China will certainly propose a hard emissions target (they committed then to peaking by 2030, but I expect them to bring this forward to 2020 or so (link). Many vulnerable developing countries have joined together in a group pressing for stabilisation below 2 degrees C. India will be nearly isolated if it refuses to submit any target, or submits one with a massive increase. Its claim to a seat on the UN Security Council will shed support like a tree losing leaves in a typhoon.

    Cooperation on solar R&D is window-dressing. There is no natural connection between research and solar resources. India has a negligible track record in the area. What does it bring to the table? It would make more sense to start building up a serious national capability.

    • harryjone0

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    • Karn

      India can give an assurance that it will not exceed Chinas current emissions . That would be fair .
      UNSC seat is not going to happen in an case , China will always veto that .

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