India unveils annual solar goals towards 2022 target


India’s Ministry of New and Renewable Energy (MNRE) has released details of just how ambitious its solar installation targets are set to be over the next seven years as the country embarks on an aggressive program of PV deployment.

The country is aiming to install 100 GW of solar PV capacity by 2022, and needs to add more than 95 GW between now and then to hit that goal. The Jawaharlal Nehru National Solar Mission (JNNSM) was created with the intent aim of reaching this target, and the MNRE has now provided a breakdown of exactly how India will seek to transform its renewable energy sector.

According to the details released in the roadmap, 40% of capacity will be added in the rooftop sector (both residential and larger commercial), with grid-scale projects making up the remaining capacity.

Between 2015-2016, India’s target is to add 200 MW of rooftop solar and 1.8 GW of ground-mounted projects – a total of 2 GW. However, the pace of installation is projected to accelerate rapidly between 2016-17, with an annual target of 12 GW set (4.8 GW for rooftop, 7.2 GW for ground-mount), and then increasing slightly each year (15 GW, then 16 GW, then 17 GW) before both 2020-21 and 2021-22 outline 17.5 GW annual solar targets each.

These ambitious targets look just about feasible in the ground-mount segment, but reaching 4.8 GW of distributed solar PV by 2017 looks a tad ambitious, as is the wider goal of 40 GW of rooftop solar PV by 2022.

Currently, India’s cumulative solar PV capacity stands at just over 4 GW, but there remain structural and investment challenges that the country must overcome if it is to build substantially on that figure every year.

Leading analysts au fait with the Indian solar market expect the country to enjoy impressive growth over the next few years, but to likely fall short of its intended goal. Deutsche Bank, for example, anticipates a sum of 34 GW of capacity by 2020, while Bridge to India expects around 31 GW by 2019.

Substantial investment is required in the electrical grid to support the anticipated ramp-up of renewable energy sources, especially that of a distributed nature, currently planned, and with more than 400 million households currently lacking electricity, that goal represents one of Prime Minister Modi’s greatest challenges.

Even with current grid capacity expansions, India may still have around 75 million of its population remaining off the grid by 2024, found a recent report by Goldman Sachs.

Interest in the solar opportunities that exist in the country has been brisk, however, with an estimated $300 billion of foreign investment planned throughout India’s renewable energy sector over the next ten years. This figure includes a $20 billion pledge by Japan’s SoftBank Corp and Taiwain’s Foxconn to establish a range of solar PV projects across the country.