At the beginning of this year, solar energy production in India surpassed a major milestone when the country’s installed capacity for generating solar power reached 20 Giga wats (Gw). This was the target that India had set for the year 2022 before the government decided in 2014 to drastically revise it to 100 Gw by the year 2022.

This milestone was achieved on the back of serious efforts made by the government in getting private sector investments into the solar power industry that resulted in a six-fold increase in capacity installation in less than four years.

Until May 2014, the country’s total solar power installed capacity was around 2.7 Gw which was consistent with the earlier target of 20 Gw for the year 2022.

Bridging energy deficiency with solar power

The government’s decision to revise the solar power generation capacity target five-fold, for the year 2022 is accompanied by plans to attract $100 billion of investment into the industry. This will involve major investments in rooftop solar that will account for 40Gw of the total of 100 Gw installed solar power generation capacity by 2022.

In this context, rooftop solar is not just ‘rooftop’ in the strict sense of the term – rather it means off-grid solar power. This could include localized microgrids set up in villages in the remote rural areas where the conventional power grid hasn’t been able to reach due to unsustainable logistical barriers.

Renewable energy to be a critical part of India’s energy mix

Around 300 million Indians, an equivalent of the population of the United States or the European Union, do not and will not have access to the national electricity grid, and this number is scattered all across the vast country in isolated pockets of the remote rural areas.

This segment of the population will be served by decentralized renewable energy, also known as off-grid power. Solar energy will comprise more than three-fourths of the renewable energy mix in these areas while the rest will be accounted for by wind, small hydro and biomass energy. The program is being implemented via the public-private-partnership (PPP) model.

India doesn’t have a robust solar energy input production infrastructure, and it is also true that without this capacity the country will find it difficult to achieve the stiff short-term target it has set. However, the government’s efforts to build up input production capacity simultaneously with increasing power generation capacity has brought results. It is expected that India will be able to meet the bulk of its requirements before long.