The World Bank Group is moving to help India deliver on its unprecedented plans to scale up solar energy, from installing solar panels on rooftops to setting up massive solar parks. This will catapult India to the forefront of the global effort to bring electricity to all, mitigate the effects of climate change, and set the country on a path to become the ‘India of the future’.
“The world must turn to (the) sun to power our future,” India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi said at the historic COP21 climate conference in Paris last year. “As the developing world lifts billions of people into prosperity, our hope for a sustainable planet rests on a bold, global initiative.”
Unveiling its own bold initiative, India pledged that it would derive at least 40% of its energy needs from renewable sources by 2030. This includes plans for the development of 100 GW of solar energy by 2022, an extremely ambitious target considering the world’s installed solar power capacity in 2014 was 181 GW.
Supporting India’s solar push is a key part of WBG President Jim Yong Kim’s agenda as he visits the country this week. Over FY 2017, the World Bank hopes to provide more than $1 billion to support India’s solar plans.
“India’s plans to virtually triple the share of renewable energy by 2030 will both transform the country’s energy supply and have far-reaching global implications in the fight against climate change,” said Kim. “Prime Minister Modi’s personal commitment toward renewable energy, particularly solar, is the driving force behind these investments. The World Bank Group will do all it can to help India meet its ambitious targets, especially around scaling up solar energy.”
The World Bank has already approved a $625 million loan that will support the Government of India’s Grid Connected Rooftop Solar program by financing the installation of solar panels on rooftops across India. The project draws funds together from the Bank, as well as from the Clean Technology Fund of the Climate Investment Funds (CIF), and will mobilize additional funding from public and private investors.
The International Finance Corporation (IFC), the World Bank Group’s private sector arm, is supporting the Indian state of Madhya Pradesh set up the 750-MW ultra-mega solar power project in Rewa. This will be the largest single-site solar power project in the world. IFC will help structure and implement the transaction to help attract investments of about $750 million. IFC was one of the earliest financiers of wind and solar power in India, and helped develop the country’s first grid-connected solar power project.
While in India, Kim is also extending support for the International Solar Alliance (ISA). The alliance, spearheaded by India and France at COP21, brings together 121 countries and aims to mobilize a trillion dollars in investments to increase the use of solar energy. By signing an agreement with the ISA in New Delhi, the WBG paves the way for it to partner with the alliance’s member countries to help them deliver on their individual objectives.
In India, the WBG has a number of initiatives in the pipeline. These include developing solar parks, promoting innovative solutions to generate and store solar power, and providing support for solar mini-grids. The Bank’s backing will help increase the availability of private financing, introduce new technologies, build capacity for solar rooftop units, and enable the development of common infrastructure to support privately developed solar parks across India.
India is already planning to develop one of the largest solar parks in the world. The 2 GW park in the southern state of Karnataka is expected to generate enough electricity to power nearly 1 million households. The park’s supply of clean, renewable solar energy will help reduce CO2 emissions by 20 million tons a year, and save 3.6 million tons of natural gas which is used to generate electricity. The success of the solar auction for the park highlights the potential for more such large scale renewable projects in the country.
Generating clean renewable electricity is crucial for India where nearly 300 million people—about a quarter of its population—live without access to electricity. Today, India is one of the lowest per capita consumers of electricity in the world; even when people are connected to the electricity grid, they face frequent disruptions. Add to that the projected economic growth and the increase in population, and the demand for energy in India is expected to double by 2040.
“With around 300 days of sunshine every year, India has among the best conditions in the world to harness solar energy. The rapid expansion of solar power can improve the quality of life for millions of Indians, especially for its poorest citizens. It can also create thousands of jobs in the solar industry and underpin progress in all areas of development, helping the country fulfil its dream of becoming the ‘India of the future’,” said Onno Ruhl, World Bank Country Director in India.