India faces significant challenges in its energy supply. The population of India is about 1.1 billion while approximately 400 million people and 28 million households lacked access to electricity in 2011. To meet growing energy demand in a sustainable manner the Jawaharlal Nehru National Solar Mission was launched in 2009. This mission sought for: solar power to achieve market parity by 2022, 20 GW of deployed solar power by 2022, solar panel manufacturing growth in India, solutions to potential environmental impacts of solar panel production, and the empowerment of rural residents to meet their energy needs with self-generated electricity from solar power.
The mission functioned through several mechanisms with targeted assistance for on-grid and off-grid systems with tailored incentives. For on-grid systems, the mission created regulatory framework for 25-year power purchasing agreements at a subsidized tariff for electricity generation. For off-grid systems 30-90% of the system capital was subsidized, loans were guaranteed at a 5% interest rate, and villages that achieved 75% solar electrification were awarded a cash prize. The mission also subsidized manufacturing and research activities.
The ongoing program in India is aggressive by international standards. But the rapid pace has resulted in many lessons learned through both successes and failures. Lessons learned from the program include:
The national mission implemented a three-phase approach to radically increase solar power adoption. Phase 1 focused on the small-scale deployment of proven technology. Phase 2 funded large-scale utility and community solar deployments. Phase 3 increased domestic manufacturing to supply the growing industry. Moving forward there is increased desire for more rural involvement, international financing, and better investigating the impact of solar development. The growth of the solar industry seeks to enable India’s energy-poor to leapfrog from dirty fossil fuels directly to eco-friendly solar energy.