What India's Smart City Initiative Means for Solar PV Adoption
In 2014, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi launched a "Smart Cities Mission" with a goal to promote cities that provide core infrastructure and a decent quality of life to its citizens: something that includes a clean and sustainable environment and an application of "Smart Solutions". The focus would be on sustainable and inclusive development in geographically compact areas and to create a replicable model that would act as a lighthouse for other aspiring cities.
Not many details were released at that time on what exactly "Smart Solutions" meant. In the ensuing months, the Indian Ministry of Urban Development launced a dedicated website for the Smart Cities Mission, which included a Mission Statement that shed some more light on the Mission's vision and strategy. Core infrastructure goals were described as adequate water supply, sanitation, affordable housing, robust IT connectivity among others; laudable goals considering that most of India's major urban centers current lack some or even all of the above.
The Mission Statement also outlined what "Smart Solutions" would encompass and those included e-governance, waste-to-energy systems, green buildings, a shift to renewable energy sources, etc. It was the last point that got a lot of people in the India Solar-PV space very excited.
By early 2015, India was gearing up to face the perfect storm for Solar-PV adoption. The falling cost of panels, coupled with an increasing government focus on the industry as well as an acute power deficit (well above 12% in some regions) led to a projected capacity increase to 20 GW in 2022 from the 2014 number of 2.2 GW.
In the 2015 budget, that projection was revised upwards to 100 GW by 2022 with a signification resource allocation. A few months later, at the COP21 in Paris, Prime Minister Modi along with French President Francois Hollande unveiled an International Solar Alliance for 121 "sun drenched" countries. The alliance's focus would be on giving momentum to solar energy policies, increasing cooperation over best and new technologies and bringing faster cost reductions.
Given the enthusiasm from high ranking public officials, the significant resource allocation and the inception of the idea of a future powered by renewable energy in the minds of the broader public, India's Smart Cities initiative seems poised to usher in the largest global adoption of Solar-PV technology yet.