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Government to restrict imports for solar energy: Farooq Abdullah

The government will limit imports and encourage domestic manufacturing through public private partnerships to boost solar energy generation as power consumption goes up dramatically with the fast-growing economy, minister for new and renewable energy Farooq Abdullah said on Wednesday.

Foreign companies must set up manufacturing facilities along with research and development centres if they want to enter India for solar power generation, he said while inaugurating a conference organised by The Associated Chambers of Commerce and Industry of India (ASSOCHAM).

About 170 megawatt capacity of grid solar power has already been set up under the Jawaharlal Nehru National Solar Mission.

During its first phase, 1,100 MW capacity is envisaged by 2013. In the second phase, additional capacity of 10,000 MW capacity for various off-grid applications has been sanctioned.

“This scale-up will require a paradigm shift in the approach. We must continue to rely more on the regulatory framework, development of transmission infrastructure and developing innovative business models. The sector will require an investment of 20 billion dollars by 2017,” said Abdullah.

The challenge is to introduce newer and efficient technologies which can lead to cost reduction and ultimately help in grid parity, he said adding there is need to grab opportunities in developing partnerships in all spheres of research, development, designing and setting up projects.

Meanwhile, ASSOCHAM president Rajkumar Dhoot said the country is endowed with vast solar energy potential and 5,000 trillion kilowatt hour per year energy is incident over the land area with most parts receiving four to seven KWh per square metre daily.

Hence both technology routes for conversion of solar radiation into heat and electricity - solar thermal and solar photovoltaic - can be effectively harnessed providing huge scalability.

Dhoot said the government should allocate a substantial portion of clean energy fund to service capital requirements of solar energy projects at low bank interest rates.

Others present during the conference were Pramod Deo, chairman of the Central Electricity Regulatory Commission, Anil Agarwal, past president of ASSOCHAM, Rakesh Bakshi, chairman of ASSOCHAM council on new and renewable energy, and N.K. Bansal, former head of department at Indian Institute of Technology’s centre for energy studies.

They said solar energy applications are cost effective in remote and far-flung areas where grid penetration is not feasible.

These applications ensure that people without access to electricity move directly to solar power by leap frogging the fossil fuel growth trajectory.

Also, the mobile phone network infrastructure in the country consists of more than three lakh towers with 3,000 new ones being added every month.

By 2015 India is expected to have over five lakh telecom towers with almost all of them having a diesel back-up. This is another area where solar power can play a substantial role.

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