Solar mission to start with 1,300 MW, reach 20,000 by 2022

New Delhi, Nov 23 ( India’s solar mission will set up, in its first phase, 1,100 MW of solar power through the electricity grid and 200 MW off the grid, with the objective of making solar power as cheap as power from coal by the end of the mission, Minister for New and Renewable Energy Farooq Abdullah said here Monday.

In a statement to parliament tabled in the Lok Sabha, Abdullah called last week’s approval of the Jawaharlal Nehru National Solar Mission by the government “a historic and transformational initiative” and added: “I am proud to have the privilege of being assigned the task of overseeing its implementation.”

The minister said: “The solar mission recommends the implementation (of its plan) in three stages leading up to an installed capacity of 20,000 MW by the end of the 13th Five Year Plan in 2022.

“It is envisaged that as a result of rapid scale up as well as technological developments, the price of solar power will attain parity with grid power at the end of the mission, enabling accelerated and large-scale expansion thereafter.”

He also revealed that the government had approved setting up of 1,100 MW of grid solar power and 200 MW capacity of off-grid solar applications utilising both solar thermal and photovoltaic technologies in the first phase of the mission.

The focal point of the mission, for the next three years, will be the NTPC Vidyut Vyapar Nigam (NVVN), which is the power trading arm of the NTPC. The government will designate it for the purchase of solar power generated by independent solar power producers, at rates fixed by the Central Regulatory Electricity Commission and for a period specified by the latter.

Abdullah said the government would provide equivalent MW of power from the unallocated quota of NTPC for bundling with solar power. The utilities will be able to account for purchase of solar power against their social obligations.

He said the mission has a twin objective — to contribute to India’s long term energy security as well as its ecological security.

“We are living in a world of rapidly depleting fossil fuel resources and access to conventional energy resources such as oil, gas and coal is becoming increasingly constrained. The rapid development and deployment of renewable energy is imperative in this context and in view of high solar radiation over the country solar energy provides a long term sustainable solution,” he stated.

The minister said while the mission was on, “we expect many new ideas to emerge and technologies to become more efficient. Quite obviously, in order to set the stage for achieving this ambitious target, what we do in the next three to four years will be critical.

Abdullah promised that the mission would establish a single window investor-friendly mechanism, “which reduces risk and at the same time provides an attractive, predictable and sufficiently extended tariff for the purchase of solar power for the grid”.

The mission includes a major initiative for promoting rooftop solar photovoltaic (PV) applications. The solar tariff announced by the regulators will be applicable for such installations. The power distribution companies will be involved in purchase of this power.

There are several off-grid solar applications which are already commercially viable or near viability, where rapid scale up is possible, the minister said. “This requires regulatory and incentive measures as well as an awareness campaign. Solar thermal heating applications, such as water heaters, fall in this category. Solar lighting systems for rural and remote areas are already being distributed commercially in several parts of the country.”

Abdullah promised that the solar mission would have a “very focussed R&D programme which seeks to address the India-specific challenges in promoting solar energy. We have to pool available resources both human and financial to strengthen the existing scientific infrastructure in the country.”

He also said the mission would “accelerate the process of development of domestic industry in this sector”.