By Dr. Farooq Abdullah, India’s Minister of New and Renewable Energy   |   February 4, 2011   |

Dr. Farooq Abdullah, India’s Minister of New and Renewable Energy, wants his country to transform the promise of boundless and clean energy into reality

New Delhi, India — India is perceived as a developing country, but it is developing at a pace that is not matched by many others. We have experienced significant economic growth. Yet the fact remains that our growth is constrained by energy supply and availability. Although we have seen an impressive increase in installed capacity addition, from barely about 1,350 MW at the time of independence (1947) to about 160,000 MW today, over 90,000 MW of new generation capacity is required in the next seven years. A corresponding investment is required in transmission and distribution.

The increasing appetite for energy that has developed in the recent past has been further complicated by rapidly diminishing conventional sources, like oil and coal. To further add to the problems of increased demand and constrained supply, there are serious questions about pursuing a fossil fuel-led growth strategy, especially in the context of environmental concerns. The challenge facing a developing nation such as ours is to meet our increasing energy needs while minimizing the damage to the environment.

This is why, while striving to bridge our energy deficit, we want to increase the share of clean, sustainable, new and renewable energy sources. Whether or not renewable energy completely replaces fossil fuel, we are determined to develop renewable energy to its fullest potential.

Driving inclusive growth

India today stands among the top five countries in the world in terms of renewable energy capacity. We have an installed base of over 15 GW, which is around 9% of India’s total power generation capacity and contributes over 3% in the electricity mix. While the significance of renewable energy from the twin perspectives of energy security and environmental sustainability is usually well appreciated, what is often overlooked, or less appreciated, is the capacity to usher in energy access for all, including the most disadvantaged and the remotest of our habitations.

In its decentralized or stand alone avatar, renewable energy is the most appropriate, scalable, and optimal solution for providing power to thousands of remote and hilly villages and hamlets. Even today, millions of decentralized energy systems, solar lighting systems, irrigation pumps, aero-generators, biogas plants, solar cookers, biomass gasifiers, and improved cook stoves, are being used in the remotest, inaccessible corners of the country. Providing energy access to be most disadvantaged and remote communities can become one the biggest drivers of inclusive growth.

The National Solar Mission

(left) Selco solar panel installation | Photo: Selco Solar Light Ltd.

The Sun is the ultimate source of energy. The National Action Plan on Climate Change in June 2008 identified the development of solar energy technologies in the country as a priority item to be pursued as a National Mission. In November 2009, the Government of India approved the Jawaharlal Nehru National Solar Mission.  This is a unique and ambitious transformational objective that aims to establish India as a global leader in solar energy by creating the policy conditions for its diffusion across the country, as quickly as possible…

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