India to spend $900 million on solar power; will it succeed?

India said last week that it will spend about $900 million on solar energy.

India said last week that it will spend about $900 million on solar energy.

The Indian cabinet has approved a plan that sets out to increase energy production from solar technology to 20 gigawatts by 2022, up from six megawatts currently.

The world as a whole currently produces about 14 gigawatts of solar power, half of it added in the last year.

The United States currently produces nine gigawatts.

The Indian government said it will spend about 43 billion rupees, or approx. $922 million USD, in the first of three phases of the program. The total cost for all three phases could swell to $20 billion.

Earlier this year, the government signaled its intention to invest more heavily in solar technology, but didn't offer much beyond that pronouncement. The announcement last week precedes the United Nations Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen, Denmark, which will begin in early December.

Indian officials have said that they will not agree to any mandated reductions in emissions. They also insisted that targets should be calculated on a per capita basis -- something that the United States and other major nations have resisted.

There's also concern that India won't fulfill its promises. The nation has been slow to add capacity for conventional electrical power, and officials estimate that India will fall 20 percent short of their 2012 target for new power capacity.

Furthermore, density is an issue, and there are fears that new construction will displace people from their land, according to a BBC report.

Finally, the value proposition for solar power isn't yet there in India. Coal, India's main fuel, costs less than half as much as solar power -- meaning the government would have to subsidize it like it does diesel, gasoline and kerosene.

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