Lightsource signs deal for 3 GW of solar in India

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Lightsource Renewable Energy, one of the U.K.’s leading developers of solar power projects, has today signed a landmark £2 billion ($3 billion) deal to develop 3 GW of solar PV projects in India over the next five years.

The agreement was signed yesterday during the visit of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi to the U.K., during which some £10 billion ($15.2 billion) in trade deals was signed between the two nations.

The Solar Trade Association (STA) – of which Lightsource is a member – said that the deal is a timely reminder to the U.K. government of the "booming international opportunities" available provided a strong domestic solar industry is nurtured and retained.

The government’s Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC) recently made the decision to slash solar subsidies via the FIT by as much as 87%, having earlier brought forward the closure of the Renewable Obligation (RO) scheme for larger-scale solar farms.

These cuts are expected to lead to the loss of around 27,000 jobs within the solar industry over the next few years, the STA argues. Lightsource, meanwhile, has calculated that this deal with the Indian government will generate around 300 jobs in the U.K. alone, bringing in some £42 million in revenue.

"We are delighted to be announcing this investment in India," said Lightsource Renewable Energy CEO Nick Boyle. "The government in India has ambitious plans to electrify India and Lightsource will contribute significantly to that goal. India will be a key market for Lightsource in the future."

India’s ambitions

The Indian National Solar Mission is targeting the installation of more than 100 GW of solar PV capacity domestically by 2022, and Narendra Modi has personally put his mark on the nation’s solar aims. In Paris at the UN talks on climate change later this month, Modi will launch his International Agency for Solar Policy and Application Initiative, which invites 110 countries to lobby for investment in their solar sectors. The aim is to attract $100 billion in funding by 2020.

Very few solar companies in the U.K. will be in a position to get involved with such opportunities following the government’s cuts, and Giles Frampton, business development direct at British Solar Renewables – which has already expanded its solar portfolio into India and Pakistan – has called it "a great shame" that the U.K. government has turned its back on solar PV.

"Modi’s visionary work on renewables as a state governor and now as PM is to be applauded," Frampton said. "We are now able to export British goods and know-how that have been developed in the turbulent U.K. market. It is a great shame that the U.K. government has turned its back on renewable energy in general and solar PV in particular while most other governments around the world recognize the huge contribution that solar PV can make as a rapidly deployable and cost-effective solution to the world’s growing energy needs."

Leonie Greene, head of external affairs at the STA, added that the visit of Modi to the U.K. should make British politicians "stop and think about what is at stake economically and technologically".

"While Modi is lining up an anticipated $100 billion of global solar business, the U.K. is pushing most of its solar industry backwards, leaving us at an international disadvantage," Greene said. "It is not too late for our government to get fully behind the British solar industry and ensure we take full advantage of global solar markets estimates to be worth trillions of pounds over the coming decades."