Solar cities, a major green push

Solar cities, a major green push

The master plan to develop 50 solar cities across the country, approved by the Union cabinet, can give a major boost to the generation of solar energy and its use. The cities have been selected on the basis of population, potential for adoption of renewable energy, steps taken to promote its use and some other criteria. Each state will have at least one solar city and this gives the project a national vision. Mysuru and Hubballi-Dharwad have been identified for Karnataka and three cities have been planned for the national capital region. The cities are to be divided into different categories, and the aim is to reduce the demand for conventional energy in these by 10 per cent when the solar project gets implemented. Solar cities are being developed in many other countries and some of them have shifted to the use of solar energy in a major way. The UPA government had launched the solar energy project in the country and the NDA government is now promoting it aggressively.

The development of solar cities is a part of the government’s ambitious plan under the Jawaharlal Nehru National Solar Mission to increase the solar power generation target by five times to 100,000 megawatts by 2022. When the plan was announced last year, the target was considered to be unachievable. It involved a very huge investment. Private investors, whose role was vital for the implementation of the project, were not expected to be keen on investment because there was uncertainty about the returns. This was because solar energy was considered to be costly and was not competitive against conventional energy. But the situation has been changing since then. New technologies have brought down the cost of solar energy, which is now not much higher than that of
thermal energy. Private players have also become more interested because of the various incentives and subsidies being offered for investment. At a recent investment meet, there were very big offers for participation in renewable energy projects and a good part of them was for solar energy production.

So the environment is turning more favourable for the solar energy initiative. This should be utilised for the success of the solar city project. Many financial and technical issues, and the most difficult one of finding enough land for the projects, will have to be addressed. Success will depend much on the commitment and actions of the local bodies and state governments also. Once the projects get implemented and gain momentum, the idea of green and renewable energy will no longer be a fanciful and romantic notion. Substantial green energy plans will also strengthen the country’s negotiating positions at the forthcoming climate change conference in Paris.
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