Because of that incredible market potential, the Solarplaza conference Solar Future: India II—in Jaipur, India, this week—is incredibly well attended.
Industry leaders and business people have gathered there to discuss the opportunities and challenges in India’s solar market.
As with all markets, securing financing is at the top of the list of challenges, said Edwin Koot, CEO of Solarplaza. And conquering those challenges will be top on the agenda.
Koot said most of the challenges come from a lack of experience with solar projects in India.
“The market in India is just taking off,” Koot said. “Only last year there was virtually no solar power in India at all. All major markets take about three years to take off. We consider this the year of building up the industry. By 2014 I believe it will be unstoppable. By that time, government policies won’t even be necessary anymore.”
Ravinda Raina, president of India operations for Astonfield, said he believes the Indian government could do a lot to improve the bankability of solar projects. But that market potential is enormous even without government assistance.
He said he believes the potential in India is far greater than it is or was in Europe, where renewable adoption is more about energy conservation efforts.
“India needs power,” he said. “There is a deficit, and many rural areas don’t have any power at all yet. Coal, the main source of energy, is already being imported.”
He said long-range economic forecasts predict that all of the coal used for energy generation in India will have to be imported by 2032. That’s expensive power, which makes solar more marketable.
And of all the renewable options for India, solar is the most logical because the plants can be built quickly—much faster than wind farms or nuclear plants. Solar is also safer than nuclear and more predictable than wind, Raina said.
He added that solar can already compete with the cost of diesel, which is used to power rural telecom towers. As more and more go up, it will be an obvious choice to use solar generators rather than diesel ones.
“In general terms,” Raina said, “I expect that within 5 years, the first 10 GW could be done.”
Solar capacity skyrocketed in the last year from 22 megawatts to 250 megawatts, Koot said.
“The number of projects is continually growing and India's pipeline is expanding explosively,” Koot said. “By 2014, India is expected to have 14.5 GW of installed solar PV capacity.”