A Sunny Forecast for Solar Energy in India

Jigar Shah, founder of SunEdison, discusses the viability of solar energy in India and the potential to develop it as a profitable industry. (Asia Society)

MUMBAI - Solar energy is a viable and cost-effective electricity solution for India, said Jigar Shah, founder and CEO of SunEdison, the biggest supplier of solar energy in the U.S.

In a discussion hosted by the Asia Society Indian Centre, Shah dispelled the notion that solar energy is expensive, stating that diesel and kerosene are sold at higher prices compared to their net light production. By 2010, according to Shah, the solar energy market will be worth $2 trillion. By 2015, solar energy will cost 16 cents per kilowatt-hour, and by 2020 it will cost 12 cents.

Shah believes that an opportunity exists for India to become a large solar power. Solar energy can be used in to fulfill the needs of telecom sites, which are branching out into rural areas where there are no reliable energy sources, he explained, citing that solar energy is a better and cheaper alternative to diesel in such instances.

During his talk, Shah proposed a grid-connected solar program of 100,000 megawatts by 2020, starting with 50 megawatts in 2009. "The time of research and development has passed," he said, and it is now time for growth. A new infrastructure for energy has to be built, and it should be done the right way. India should settle on what kind of energy they wish to use (solar, coal, natural gas, etc.) and follow forth on setting up a large scale infrastructure on that basis, rather then smaller systems that can accommodate only 10,000 megawatts.

Shah further stated that India needs to change the way they think about energy. "There needs to be a vision that coal is not good enough for India’s electricity purposes," he said. He stressed that the energy market should be diversified, and solar should make up 20% of the Indian energy market by 2020.

Excerpt: Jigar Shah discusses the potential for a new solar plan for India. (6 min.) 


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