Cease coal imports, embrace affordable solar, urges Indian power minister

India’s power minister Piyush Goyal has called on the country’s power generators to cease coal imports if the nation is to come good on its “One Nation, One Grid, One Price” energy goal.

Speaking at the two-day Energy Conclave 2016 event, the head of India’s decision-making on energy and power stressed that the government will hold a dialogue designed to wean private companies off their reliance on coal imports.

Goyal stressed, however, that India cannot abandon fossil fuels altogether, but is of the opinion that a better balance needs to be struck between renewable sources of energy, and more conventional means.

India’s "One Nation, One Grid, One Price" energy program aims to deliver affordable, robust and grid-connected energy right the way across this vast country, and all at one stable price. To achieve this, various other programs such as the 100 GW by 2022 National Solar Mission, and the ‘Must Run’ rules that stipulate Indian Discoms give priority status to renewable energy generation capacity when purchasing power, need to be more widely adopted, Goyal said.

In India, he added, government-backed efforts to grow solar’s footprint had helped lower the cost of the technology by 40% over the past 18 months, aided by low-cost Chinese solar modules flooding the market. Mercom Capital expects India to now add more than 4.8 GW of new solar PV capacity in 2016 as a result of these favorable market conditions.

However, PV’s path towards that 100 GW is not without its hurdles, chiefly a reluctance among Discoms to abide by the rules and procure solar power where available, said the power minister. In areas where there has been acute overcapacity of power, solar power has often been curtailed in favor of cheaper power.

Allied to delayed subsidy payments in the states of Tamil Nadu and Rajasthan, solar’s seemingly seismic growth could be punctured if such issues are not addressed, Goyal and other experts argue.