State Bank of India to bankroll 15 GW of solar power by 2020

The State Bank of India has said it will bankroll 15 GW of solar power by 2020, although it has not disclosed exactly how much it will spend on the country’s ambitious goal. The price of 1 GW is estimated at around $1 billion.

India’s solar energy target was front and center at the first Renewable Energy Global Investors Meet & Expo (RE-Invest), which kicked off on Sunday in New Delhi and runs through Tuesday.

Opening the conference on Sunday, Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who has made renewable energy a priority for his government, described clean energy as an "article of faith."

Speaking to Reuters, First Solar CEO Jim Hughes welcomed India’s commitment to develop 100 GW of solar power by 2022 – a 33-fold increase from the current level – but pointed out that in some Indian states, questions remained about the financial viability of solar programs.

"It makes it difficult to develop projects in these circumstances," Hughes told Reuters.

Hughes said India would struggle to hit its hugely ambitious renewable energy target if it failed to make more land available for plants and ensure utilities have the means to buy clean energy.

Market watchers have cast doubt on India’s solar energy goals given the financial state of the country’s state-run electricity distribution companies that would buy solar energy, and the slow pace at which land for solar installations is made available.

First Solar said on Sunday that it planned to develop 5 GW of solar in India by 2019, while U.S. rival SunEdison announced plans to build 15.2 GW of solar and wind power by 2022, according to Reuters.

Indian companies Adani Enterprises and Essel Group have also announced plans to construct new solar plants in the country.

Hughes said First Solar needed to acquire land, secure financing and reach power purchase agreements with buyers before it could build up capacity.

"India has a critical need to add capacity to its grid as it continues to experience strong economic growth and growing demand for energy," said Pashupathy Gopalan, president of SunEdison Asia-Pacific, quoted by Reuters.

India is aiming to increase its renewable energy share to 15% in 10 to 12 years from the current 6%, Power Minister Piyush Goyal told the conference on Sunday.