Challenges in Solar Power Development in India

    It always comes as a surprise to non-specialist observers that, despite the fact that India has 300 days of sunlighton average, solar power plays an almost insignificant role in the Indian energy mix.

    It always comes as a surprise to non-specialist observes that, despite the fact that India has 300 days of sunlight average, solar power plays an almost insignificant role in the Indian energy mix. What they fail to see if the technological, financial, institutional and structural complexity that needs to be mastered to harness this seemingly simple and environmentally benign source of energy as the Jawaharlal Nehru National Solar Mission (JNNSM or NSM) launched by the Government of India in 2010 clearly demonstrates.

    At the industry level, the NSM has given the initial boost the industry requires but many key issues concerning data, technology and finance need to be addressed. At the broader strategic level, it is not clear what objectives India seeks to achieve in committing to invest a significant sum of its scarce resources in the solar sector. The NSM states that it aims to scale up deployment of solar energy keeping in mind the financial constraints and affordability challenge in a country where large numbers of people do not have access to basic power and are unable to pay for high cost solutions.

    What remains missing in the statement are th strategic goals such as the development of a globally competitive solar manufacturing industry or the provision of decentralised energy services to the poor who cannot afford to pay for high cost energy. For the NSM to have a clear direction, these objectives must be clarified at this early stage of the mission.