India: solar park target should not be limited to 40 GW if demand is there, says Mercom

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The Indian National Solar Mission’s (NSM) 2022 target of 100 GW of installed solar capacity has often been regarded overly ambitious by those operating within the Indian solar market.

But the current demand for solar power nationwide is slowly eroding scepticism, and the recent doubling of India’s solar park capacity target for 2020 from 20 GW to 40 GW is expected to make it easier for developers to not only identify suitable sites but also to build and connect solar farms at speed, and with quality.

Having doubled its installed solar capacity in 2016, India is on course to add a further 9 GW of capacity this year as it seeks to accelerate towards its 2022 goal. But to reach that target, believes Mercom Capital Group CEO Raj Prabhu, the Ministry for New and Renewable Energy (MNRE) must be willing to adapt to market demands and alter policies that are either under- or overperforming.

“Though not perfect, solar parks have reduced some of the problems faced by large-scale developers, such as land acquisition and transmission infrastructure,” Prabhu told pv magazine. “Project costs have come down due to solar parks, in some instances. The government sees solar parks as a success, and has doubled the target capacity to 40 GW from 20 GW. Of the various solar targets, this is one of the more achievable ones because it gives developers of large-scale projects some certainty and visibility to plan future development.”

However, 40 GW of solar park capacity is still less than half of the stated 100 GW goal. The NSM currently divides its goal between large-scale and rooftop, with the latter sector still expected to bring 40 GW to the table between now and 2022. Current rooftop capacity in India stood at just 600 MW at the end of December 2016, Prabhu said, and reduced subsidies and incentives in the sector make it even less likely that this target will be reached.

“The rooftop target is unrealistic,” he warned. “This is another reason why increasing the solar park target was a good idea as we do not expect India to meet its rooftop target.

“In our opinion, the MNRE should not be too rigid with individual targets, and large-scale development [under which solar parks sit] should not be restricted to 60 GW if there is demand.”