India Ties Solar Plans To Global Climate Support
Author: Krittivas Mukherjee
A labourer cleans solar cells placed on a window of a newly constructed solar housing complex in the eastern Indian city of Kolkata July 8, 2008.
Photo: Parth Sanyal
NEW DELHI - India issued solar power targets on Monday, with plans to boost ouptut from near zero to 20 gigawatts (GW) by 2022, but tied chances of the plan's success to availability of international finance and technology.
The announcement was made days before U.N. negotiations in Copenhagen for a global deal on climate change, deadlocked over levels of carbon emissions cuts to be taken by rich countries.
Talks are also stuck on financial and technological support to be given by rich countries to developing nations.
"India is making a very strong case for international support for its climate actions, but in the process it is also skirting its unilateral obligations," said Siddharth Pathak, Greenpeace's main climate campaigner in India.
"The Solar mission doesn't make it clear how much of the plan is to be carried out unilaterally and how much with international support."
A climate plan released last year identified renewable energy, like solar power, and energy efficiency as key elements. About 8 percent of India's total power mix is from renewables, though it is a leading provider of wind power technology.
Solar power is a key thrust and India has plans of generating 20 GW of solar power by 2022. That target would help India close the gap on solar front-runners like China and is part of a 30-year scheme initially estimated to cost $19 billion.
Developing countries such as India refuse to accept binding emission cut targets and argue they need to keep burning fossil fuel to lift millions of their population out of poverty.
About 56 percent of India's 1.1-billion plus population has no access to electricity.
The final solar document makes no mention of the total required investment and gives no detail of how money would be raised to fund the ambitious three-phase plan. Earlier drafts made no mention of international assistance.
The final plan also lowers the initial target mentioned in draft documents from 1-1.5 GW by 2012 to 1 GW by 2017, depending on availability of international finance and technology.
"The ambitious target for 2022 of 20,000 Megawatts (MW) or more will be dependent on the enhanced and enabled international finance and technology," the document said.
The strategy, it said, had two main objectives: "to scale up deployment of solar energy and to do this keeping in mind the financial constraints and affordability challenge in a country where large numbers of people still have no access to basic power and are poor and unable to pay for high cost solutions."
The plan says money would be spent on incentives for production and installation as well research and development, and it offers financial incentives and tax holidays for utilities.
The solar mission also outlines a system of paying households for any surplus power from solar panels fed back into the grid.
If implemented, solar power would be equivalent to one-eighth of India's current installed power base, helping the world's fourth-largest emitter of greenhouse gas emissions limit reliance on coal and easing the power deficit that has crimped its growth.
(Editing by Bappa Majumdar and Ron Popeski)