Solar energy institute, electric mobility mission to back India's clean energy goals

Subhra Priyadarshini

doi:10.1038/nindia.2013.54 Published online 17 April 2013

India's Prime Minister Manmohan singh addressing the 4th Clean Energy Ministerial in New Delhi.


India will set up a national institute of solar energy in the next couple of years and implement a national mission on electric mobility, as part of the country's commitment to the greater use of clean energy. India's Prime Minister Manmohan Singh announced these measures at the Fourth Clean Energy Ministerial inaugurated in New Delhi today saying they would help the country substitute the use of fossil fuels and reduce the 'collateral damage associated with carbon emissions and other green house gases'.

Singh was addressing the conference attended by ministers and delegations from more than 23 economies accounting for 80 per cent of greenhouse gas emissions and 90 per cent of clean energy investment. The conference also saw representation from international organizations, private sector and non-governmental organizations.

Singh said India's proposed solar energy institute would conduct international standard R&D to create more affordable and convenient solar power systems, and promote innovations that enable the storage of solar power for sustained, long-term use.

The electric mobility mission was launched in January 2013 to ensure national energy security, mitigation of the adverse impact of vehicles on the environment and growth of domestic manufacturing capabilities. It lays down targets and vision for the use of eco-friendly electric vehicle technologies in India by 2020. "I am happy that the Government of India will be joining the Electric Vehicle Initiative of the Clean Energy Ministerial," he announced.

"Developing countries account for 82 percent of the world's population and they use 55 percent of the available global supply of energy. If they follow the industrialized countries in meeting their energy requirements through fossil fuel based energy, we know that the impact on the global climate would be simply unsustainable," Singh said upholding the country's official stand that industrialised countries, historically responsible for the bulk of accumulated greenhouse emissions, must take greater responsibility.

The prime minister said though these issues were the focus of intense discussion in the UNFCC climate change negotiations, unfortunately, progress in these negotiations was "painfully slow". "The goal of stabilising global temperatures at acceptable levels is nowhere in sight," he insisted.

Executive Director of Paris-based International Energy Agency Maria van der Hoeven agreed. "Progress remains alarmingly slow for a majority of technologies that could save energy and reduce CO2emmissions," she said addressing the conference. "For too long have we supported, directly or indirectly, wasteful use of energy. Largely this is because prices do not reflect the true cost of energy. Altering this means creating a meaningful carbon price," she said advocating the phasing out of subsidies on fossil fuels.

India's 12th Five Year Plan that ends in 2017 has set a national target of reducing energy intensity by a quarter of the GDP by 2020. The country proposes to double the renewable energy capacity (from 25000 MW to 55000 MW) by the year 2017. The government's ambitious Jawaharlal Nehru National Solar Mission is expected to generate 22,000 MW of solar capacity in the next ten years. However, Singh said the problem lies with exploiting hydel power fully because of environmental limitations – submergence of forests and issues of rehabilitating affected populations. "We will work to resolve these problems," he assured.

Singh, a renowned economist, also addressed the issue of financing green energy in the context of developing countries. "For the moment green energy is not viable on its own without subsidy or regulatory incentives. Investors obviously need assurance that these incentives will continue." He noted that market forces alone do not provide sufficient financing unless the risks of policy change are appropriately addressed. "We need to know more about what each of us is doing," he said urging country representatives to exchange notes on best practices in this area.

Deputy chairperson of India's Planning Commission Montek Singh Ahluwalia said India would incentivise the use of clean energy and create a competitive domestic production base from wind, solar and biomass. However, he observed that it will be a "difficult decision" for the government to incorporate these renewable energy sources into the integrated energy policy.