India's Modi puts solar firmly on G20 agenda

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Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi used the occasion of Sunday’s G20 summit in Antalya, Turkey, to nudge member states to back his Global Solar Alliance – a newly formed organization of the world’s sun-rich nations that Modi believes can transform their energy infrastructures to ones rooted in solar power.

In previous outings of Modi’s Alliance plan, the PM has insisted that investments of $100 billion annually are required globally in order for the Alliance to successfully pursue its aims, and he told attendees at the G20 summit that the world must ensure "finance and technology is available to meet the universal global aspiration for clean energy".

"We must meet the target of $100 billion goal per year by 2020," he added. The G20 Summit arrived just weeks before the Conference of Parties (COP21) UN climate change conference in Paris, at which India will formalize its clean energy goals, which include the addition of 100 GW of solar PV capacity by 2022 as part of its National Solar Mission (NSM).

Modi has also created a $3 billion National Clean Energy Fund that will promote clean energy research and technologies. This project forms part of India’s Intended Nationally Determined Contributions (INDCs) that will be pledged in Paris. For India, this represents a commitment to lower carbon emissions by 33-35% between now and 2030.

We should shift from ‘carbon credit’ towards ‘green credit’," said Modi. "When we speak of targets, we must not only reduce the use of fossil fuel, but also moderate our lifestyle. Development in harmony with nature is the goal of my proposal to launch, along with French President Francois Hollande, an alliance of solar-rich countries at the time of the COP21."

Further concrete details of the alliance are scarce, but India’s government has revealed that it is to propose an International Agency for Solar Technologies and Applications (INSTA) that will bring together 125 countries that lie between the tropics of Cancer and Capricorn, to form the bulk of the alliance.

India’s rooftop solar changes

Changes are afoot in India’s solar rooftop market, with yearly targets set to be rolled out designed to push the sector towards 40 GW of cumulative PV capacity over the next few years. Having grown by 66% in the past year despite the lack of any specific support policies, the country’s minister for new and renewable energy, Piyush Goyal, has drafted a new solar policy that is now ready to be placed before the union cabinet.

According to consultancy firm Bridge to India, the new policy is like to consolidate and detail already-known aspects, such as yearly targets, changes in capital subsidy, and a scheme for low cost financing.

Bridge to India added, however, that any absence that rules for mandatory rooftop installations for buildings will likely make the policy release a "non-event". However, Bridge To India believes that the new policy will "consolidate and bring all disparate fiscal and operational support measures for the market under one comprehensive framework including, for example, steep expansion in yearly targets, 15% capital subsidy for residential consumers and public buildings, and low cost financing using funds from international developmental banks."

The analysts add that it will not be possible to achieve 40 GW of rooftop solar based on the FIT, subsidies or other "generation-based incentives". Instead, the role of rooftop policy should be to "accelerate adoption rates by enabling various technical and operational measures", building upon the market’s strong fundamentals, such as increasing commercial attractiveness when compared to grid power.