Newly elected Indian Prime Minister vows solar power for every home

India’s newly elected Prime Minister has pledged to use solar power to ensure that every home in the energy deficient nation would be able to run at least one light bulb by 2019.

As leader of the Bharatiya Janata Party – swept into power on May 16 in the biggest electoral win in three decades – Narendra Modi looks set to extend the  “saffron revolution” he helped to establish as chief minister of Gujarat.

“We look upon solar as having the potential to completely transform the way we look at the energy space,” said Narendra Taneja, head of energy in the BJP.

In India, more than 300 million people are estimated to be existing off the electricity grid, while national demand for power is anticipated to double to 2020. According to the World Bank, blackouts reduce the country’s GDP by 1.5 per cent annually. In 2012, a blackout plunged 700 million into darkness for two days.

The news has been welcomed by India’s burgeoning clean energy industry – not to mention the LED lighting industry – especially considering Modi’s history as pioneer of solar reform.

In Gujarat, Modi introduced the sub-continent’s first incentives for large-scale solar in 2009, fostering the development over 900MW of solar capacity in the central western state – more than a third of the total capacity of the entire country.

Modi also oversaw Gujarat’s Narmada canal project — a first of its kind for India, in which SunEdison installed a solar array on top of the canal – and initiated a ‘rent-your-roof’ program, where households could lease their rooftops to companies like SunEdison for solar installations.

Now, as Prime Minister, growing renewable energy generation will remain one of his top priorities, according to BJP’s Taneja, especially solar, with its potential to create jobs and supply millions of households not connected to the grid, he told Bloomberg.

As BJP”s Taneja also noted, the success of Modi’s plan will depend on the cooperation of state-level administrations, who share control over the power industry with the central government. But with this cooperation, the government expects solar panels could allow every home to have enough power to run two bulbs, a solar cooker and a television.

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Giles Parkinson