Energy has been always a concern for humanity and renewable energy seems the answer to fix the energy crisis. Solar energy has gained most of the hype in the past years because of ultimate abundance of sunlight. Considering the same India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi has set an ambitious target of building 100GW of solar capacity by 2022.
The industry has gained hype and constantly thriving to build the best. But scenario looks different from other perspective as many believe that world cannot harness the complete energy of sun yet. India may be in trouble. Currently, only 2 percent of global electricity is generated by solar energy plants. It would have to cross considerable blockages in order to replace fossil fuels completely. Scarcity of investment, stagnant solar technology, and incomplete power grids to handle the volatile renewable power are the common barriers.
We currently need innovation in three arenas to completely utilize solar energy. Financial innovation is required to bring the trillions of dollars of investment needed. Innovation in technology will constantly increase the efficiency of the solar power modules. Systemic innovation is required to transform energy systems for handling surges and sages in case of discontinuous supply of sunlight.
Lack of investment is the primary problem in India’s pursuit of solar energy. India will need $100 billion investment to reach the target of 100GW of solar capacity.
Investors are worried that rupee will devaluate. They are aware that state electricity discoms may take years to repay the contract. Another issue is that investors are uncomfortable investing in solar projects.
But India has infrastructure investments trusts that can enable large institutional investor to buy into solar projects. This is the financial innovation that we were seeking. Since January, many firms have invested in Indian solar projects.
The new solar
Even with the money, solar technology lags far behind in terms of efficiency. Problem here is that as solar energy becomes cheaper in comparison to fossil fuels, in future it will get an increase in demand and may cause the prices to rise. It is hard to keep the project economical.
This will require usage of new materials that are dirt cheap and highly efficient. The possible alternative under research is frontrunner AKA perovskite. One day this material can enable commercial level printing of rolls of high-efficiency panel coatings.
The commercial adaption of the technology needs public investment. India had signed the 2015 mission innovation pledge to double research and development of energy’s funding.
But the government doesn’t seem supportive as it is thinking about imposing a 70% safeguard duty on imports of solar panels from China, Malaysia and Taiwan. This might work in the short run but overall it will only hurt the core industry.
It is India’s golden chance to hail in the solar energy sector. Great planning will take it a long way. Planning that requires investments, innovation in technology, and system reconfiguration. The reward will be a smooth transition to clean, secure, and ubiquitous energy with high efficiency.