India's coal and renewables under one minister

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Quite what the appointment of one politician to unite three querulous Indian government ministries will mean for solar and other renewables in the country is unclear.

The Wall Street Journal reported on Tuesday newly-elected Indian prime minister Narendra Modi will unite the country’s frequently quarrelling power, coal and renewable energy departments under the stewardship of Piyush Goyal, with the minister tasked with uniting the three factions for the first time.

Whether that means attempts by the ministry for new and renewable energy (MNRE) will gain greater sway or be submerged beneath calls for the country to restart coal production to avert blackouts, remains to be seen.

The power ministry blames counterparts in the coal ministry for the power outages that bedevil the country, blaming a shortage of coal. The coal ministry responds that utility companies are to blame for not developing their own coal supplies whilst adding mining projects are delayed by the ministry of the environment and forests (MOEF).

In turn, the MNRE complains not enough emphasis is placed on alternatives to coal.

According to Tuesday’s report, Goyal will attempt to learn lessons from the western state of Gujarat, one of the country’s few states to run a power surplus and in which solar played a leading role under the stewardship of Modi as chief minister.

Industry awaits Modi verdict on AD

The Indian solar industry is also waiting to see whether Modi – who called for a clean energy revolution in the country whilst on the campaign trail – will adopt the recommendation made by his ministry of commerce last week to impose a range of anti dumping duties on solar cells and modules imported from China, Taiwan, Malaysia and the U.S.

The report announcing the findings of the anti dumping investigation revealed the MNRE and MOEF both oppose the imposition of duties.

Modi, head of the Bharatiya Janata Party which won enough seats to govern without the need for coalition partners, has been handed an electoral mandate to introduce sweeping changes in the populous country and has already captured the world’s attention by inviting the prime minister of neighbouring Pakistan, Nawaz Sharif, to his inauguration.

That came as a surprise to critics of the new PM who had remarked his Hindu nationalist background and may indicate his energetic support of solar in Gujarat will not automatically translate into the same policies at national level.