Whether the sun is a god or a star, or both, depends on one´s beliefs. Irrespective of that, salutations are due. Because, if there is one source of energy that can help us viably break away from the stranglehold of fossil fuels, it is the sun. There is much talk and hype about many other sources of renewable energy such as wind, waves/oceans, hydro, fusion and also about a few near-renewables (just from CO2 emissions´ perspective) like geothermal or nuclear, but the stand-out option is clearly solar.
So, it is but natural, that we express respect and awe for the inexhaustible source of energy that also happens to be the centre of our solar system in more ways than one. Therefore, Surya Namaskar is very much in order, the currently raging religious controversies notwithstanding. We bow to offer our respects to the never ending (well, almost!) fusion reactions going on in the star that we call sun, which, together with the great strides we have made in technology to harness this source of energy, offer us a unique solution to our energy needs of the conceivable future. Not just that, it also enables us, human beings, to hit upon an incredibly simple ´stone´ to kill the twin ´birds´, namely our infinitely expanding energy needs for our development on the one hand, and our imperative to limit CO2 emissions so as to protect the livelihoods of our future generations, on the other.
How are we doing in India? The National Action Plan for Climate Change (NAPCC) launched in 2007 with eight missions, was perhaps the first serious attempt to bring India´s climate efforts onto a ´mission´ mode, under institutional governance.
However, improving the governance framework and achieving results do not always come hand in hand, as we have seen in the numbers that emerged. As for the solar mission, the target of 8 per cent renewable energy in the grid energy mix by 2012-13, was way beyond the 4.5 per cent actually achieved.
Then came 2014, when as a snapshot, we had a meagre 3 GW of solar capacity, included in a total of 34 GW of all renewables, and when the new Prime Minister Modi reset the goalpost at 100 GW for renewables by the year 2022, which was upped in 2015, to an audacious 175 GW, of which a substantial 100 GW will be solar, inclusive of 40 GW to come from rooftop solar units. Viewed against these dazzling targets, we are not doing that badly either - as of last month, we crossed 8.6 GW of solar installations, and had a solar project pipeline of 21 GW. Next year, we have to set up 9 GW of solar capacity - more than what we have achieved cumulatively thus far.
Then on 2nd October 2016, India ceremonially ratified the Paris Agreement as agreed in CoP21, in which we have pledged our commitment to the UN-sponsored global effort to tackle climate change. India has promised that (among other targets), by 2030, non-fossil fuels would account for 40 per cent of our total energy generation capacity. This, according to observers, translates to almost 300 GW of renewables capacity. Some studies estimate that by 2030, India´s solar photovoltaic installations tally would reach up to about 200 GW, potentially leaving an unaccounted for deficit of 100 GW.
Clearly, to deliver on our Paris promises, we have to further improve our performance, and accelerate our solar projects. Issues that may need to be addressed on priority grid connectivity, storage capacities, financing inadequacies, project management capabilities, and last but not the least, we have to get our act together in bolstering indigenous manufacturing capacities. And even before we do all this, we need to celebrate the people, the leaders, and the organisations which brought us here today, in our country´s exciting journey to be a global solar powerhouse. So, this issue of Solar Today is all about Solar Awards - our salutation to the high-performers in the sector.