Solar panels are cheaper, but without public awareness and participation, that means zilch for India’s renewable energy mission- Feb 07, 2012
As I read New Scientist’s recent article about the drop in the cost of production of solar panels, I wonder why we, in India, don’t have aggressive incentives in place for adopting solar technology (or any other suitable renewable energy mode as per context). According to the piece, the price of solar panels has fallen by some 50% in 2011 and cost a quarter of what they did in 2008. That has, according to the article, huge implications for India and other developing countries, especially in the light of the fact that India is committed to a “Solar Mission” to install 20,000 megawatts of solar power by 2022!
I looked up where we’ve got by now. In 2011-2012, an Ministry of New and Renewable Energy (MNRE) document reports, 833MW of wind power capacity was created as opposed to a target of 2400MW;111MW of small hydro power capacity was creates against a target of 350MW and so on and so forth in the following areas: biomass power, bagasse cogeneration, waste to power (1.2MW against a target of 25MW), and most embarrassingly, solar power (8.5MW against a target of 200MW for the year!). I fail to see how the mission would achieve its target at the rate of under 10MW capacity addition per year.
Typical of government programs, there is a lot of self-praise on the Internet for starting such a mission, but very little to show what’s being done. To me, something like renewable energy needs a Pulse Polio sort of approach- targeted, aggressive and result-oriented. The public needs to be made aware that the energy crisis is a life threatening situation. They then should be offered technology and assistance to install solar panels, wind turbines, bio-gas plants or whatever is applicable to individuals or communities. Experts say installation costs are what hold people back; so low interest loans should be provided. Empaneled companies should be able to install and maintain these devices and report to the government monthly. Tax breaks should be offered to those who adopt these solutions and finally, recognition must be offered to organizations and community mobilizers who promote the cause. The involvement if corporate houses is crucial, both to demonstrate the effectiveness of these technologies by adopting them as well as to fund renewable energy campaigns as part of their CSR.
There is a strong role for community and citizens here, but the government seems to still be focused on public institutions. A lot is happening, but the public is excluded from the chance to influence their future. And that, in my opinion, is a serious issue.