India continues its race towards a sustainable future. Solar energy now passes coal

India continues its race towards a sustainable future. Solar energy now passes coal

Giacomo Maniscalco
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Indian energy agencies are pushing photovoltaic as an evermore economical and cost-effective renewable source, while the country aims to close coal imports by 2020

On November 7 the Indian public energy company National Thermal Power Corporation (NTPC) announced its intention to reach the target of 52% of energy produced from renewable sources by 2020. What makes this announcement especially interesting, beyond the ambitious intentions in general terms, is the rapidity of the development of renewable resources in the country. Suffice it to say that in 2011 the NTPC possessed virtually no solar panels. In addition, the NTPC is not the only agency to push towards the switch to sustainables, the other three Indian majors (Reliance, Tata and Adani) are doing likewise. This heady growth has brought with it a rapid lowering of production costs. Since 2011 PV  costs have dropped 80%. In 2015 the Indian Energy Minister Piyush Goyal aroused general skepticism by declaring that the country would end coal imports by 2020, yet the cost of solar output has already fallen below that of coal imports. The change does not mean the immediate end of coal, the domestic production of which will continue, but the road to a future of renewables lies open, and even the most conservative of estimates indicate a further decline in the cost of solar production of around 5% to 10% a year.