Solar Energy in India: Revolutionizing the Power Sector 

Mains Marks Booster     5th August 2023        
output themes

Introduction

India's relentless pursuit of a sustainable future has led to substantial investments in renewable energy sources, with solar energy taking center stage. The Indian government has set an ambitious target of expanding the country's renewable energy installed capacity to 500 GW by 2030. To achieve this, India aims to source nearly half of its energy from non-fossil fuel sources by 2030, with solar power accounting for at least 60% of its renewable energy mix. The growth of the solar sector plays a vital role in India's commitment to reducing dependence on fossil fuels and transitioning to a greener future.

Solar Energy Potential in India

  • India's solar energy capacity has experienced remarkable growth over the past decade. Starting from less than 10 MW in 2010, the country has now surpassed 50 GW of photovoltaic (PV) capacity by 2022.
  • Looking ahead, India has set its sights on a massive target of 500 GW of renewable energy deployment by 2030, with 280 GW expected from solar PV. This implies a need to add 30 GW of solar capacity every year until 2030.
  • However, India's current solar module manufacturing capacity is limited to around 15 GW per year, leading to a significant reliance on imports.
  • Notably, China, Vietnam, and Malaysia account for approximately 85% of India's solar imports since 2014, amounting to a staggering $12.93 billion or Rs 90,000 crore. 

Advantages of Solar Energy in India

  • Inexhaustible source: Solar energy is an abundant resource, providing a sustainable alternative to non-renewable energy sources in India.
  • Environmental friendliness: Given India's alarming pollution levels, solar energy's eco-friendly nature makes it highly suitable for the country.
  • Versatile applications: Solar energy can be utilized for various purposes, including heating, drying, cooking, and electricity generation. This versatility is particularly beneficial for rural areas, where it can replace other energy sources.
  • Widespread usability: Solar energy can power a wide range of devices, from cars, planes, and power boats to satellites and calculators, making it well-suited for urban populations.
  • Cost-effective power generation: In a country with a scarcity of power and high generation costs, solar energy offers a viable and cost-efficient alternative.
  • Easy installation: Solar panels can be easily installed, making them an affordable option compared to other energy sources.
  • Empowering rural communities: The installation of solar lanterns and solar-powered home lights has positively impacted millions of lives in India, providing a sustainable and affordable lighting solution. The Ministry of New and Renewable Energy offers subsidies for such installations, further enhancing accessibility.
  • Water pumping systems: Solar photovoltaic water-pumping systems are used for irrigation and drinking water, addressing critical needs in rural areas. 

Challenges of Solar Energy production in India

  • Capital-intensive manufacturing: Solar cell manufacturing requires significant capital investment.
  • Technological complexity: Establishing state-of-the-art manufacturing facilities necessitates access to advanced technology, which may not be readily available or cost-effective for new entrants.
  • Lack of integration and economies of scale: Despite 100% foreign direct investment (FDI) in the renewable energy sector, the lack of an integrated setup and economies of scale contribute to higher costs of domestic production.
  • Raw material supply constraints: The manufacturing of solar panels suffers from a shortage of raw materials, particularly silicon wafers, which are not produced in India.
  • Rapid technological advancements: Solar cell technology undergoes frequent upgrades, rendering manufacturing processes inefficient for new market players. 

Government of India Initiatives

  • Production Linked Incentive (PLI) Scheme: A 19,500-crore PLI scheme has been launched to incentivize high-efficiency solar PV module production, aiming to attract a significant investment of Rs 94,000 crore.
  • Modified Special Incentive Package Scheme (M-SIPS): This scheme, offered by the Ministry of Electronics & Information Technology, provides a 20-25% subsidy on capital expenditure for establishing solar energy manufacturing facilities.
  • Atal Jyoti Yojana (AJAY): Launched in 2016, this scheme focuses on installing solar street lighting systems in states with less than 50% grid power coverage.
  • PM KUSUM: With the goal of adding 30,800 MW of solar and other renewable capacity by 2022, the PM KUSUM scheme offers total central financial support of Rs. 34,422 Crores.
  • Solar Park Scheme: India plans to establish multiple solar parks across various states, each with a capacity of nearly 500 MW.
  • SRISTI Scheme: The Sustainable Rooftop Implementation of Solar Transfiguration of India (SRISTI) scheme aims to promote rooftop solar power projects in the country.
  • National Solar Mission: This major initiative by the Indian government and state governments aims to promote sustainable growth while addressing energy security challenges. 

Way Forward

  • Leveraging large hydro potential: India should harness its untapped large hydro potential to generate more renewable energy at a minimal cost and with minimal carbon emissions.
  • Infrastructure expansion and increased investment: Increased investment in renewable energy infrastructure, including transmission and distribution networks, as well as research and development of new solar technologies, is crucial.
  • Private sector participation: Encouraging private sector involvement through favorable policies and incentives will be instrumental in the development and deployment of solar energy solutions.
  • Advancing energy storage solutions: Investing in advanced energy storage technologies will ensure effective utilization of solar energy even during non-sunny periods.
  • Promoting rooftop solar: The Indian government should provide incentives, subsidies, and tax credits to drive the widespread adoption of rooftop solar systems by households and businesses.
  • Building a skilled workforce: Investment in training and education programs is essential to cultivate a skilled workforce capable of deploying and maintaining solar energy systems. 

Conclusion

India's push towards solar energy is driving significant growth in renewable energy capacity. With ambitious targets and government initiatives, solar power is poised to play a crucial role in India's transition to a greener and more sustainable future.

Samadhaan