India – Microcosm for Regional Solar Energy Development

Welcome address by S. Chander, ADB Director General, Regional and Sustainable Development Department at the Fourth Meeting of the Asia Solar Energy Forum, The Gateway Hotel, Jodhpur, 24 April 2012

I. Introduction

Your Excellencies, distinguished delegates, ladies and gentlemen;

On behalf of the organizers, The Asia Solar Energy Forum, The Asian Development Bank, The Indian Institute of Technology, Rajasthan, The Tata Power Company Limited, SBI Capital Markets, Powergrid Corporation of India, and Reliance Power Company Limited, it is my pleasure and honor to welcome you all to the Fourth Meeting of the Asia Solar Energy Forum [3], or ASEF. On behalf of the Asian Development Bank, I would like to extend my gratitude to the Government of India and the Government of Rajasthan, for facilitating this event. Last, but not the least, I would like to thank all of you for sparing your valuable time to be with us for the next three days.

II. The Asia Solar Energy Initiative (ASEI) and the Jawaharlal Nehru National Solar Mission (NSM)

The Asia Solar Energy Initiative, announced by ADB's President at ADB's 42nd Annual Meeting at Tashkent, Uzbekistan, has come a long way. We committed ourselves to establish a knowledge forum, catalyze 3,000MW of solar power generation capacity by 2013, and establish a dedicated fund for preparation of projects, risk mitigation, and incentivization of solar power projects. The results so far have been impressive. The Asian Solar Energy Forum has held 3 meetings with good international attendance, this meeting in Jodhpur being the fourth; over 815 MW of solar generation capacity has been catalyzed; and sufficient donor interest has been generated to start the dedicated solar energy fund soon. What is even more impressive is that in many countries, development is taking place even without assistance from MDBs. The whole process was expected to increase throughput volumes to reduce the costs of solar technologies, and this has also been achieved in good measure, although there is still some way to go. Partnerships have also been formed and we are seeing a number of south-south, as well as south-north tie-ups. For its part, ADB is supporting the Indian Institute of Technology, Rajasthan, here in Jodhpur, and the International Solar Research Institute in Tashkent, Uzbekistan to provide strong support for localization of technological development.

India is a microcosm of the potential and challenges for solar energy development in the region.  From the supply side, India's solar energy potential is among the best in the world, boasting 300 sunny days in a year.  And there is much of this sunlight falling on land that is not suitable for agriculture or other competing uses.  From the demand side, India is the third largest electricity consumer in the region, following the People's Republic of China and Japan.  Specifically, demand has been growing at 8% on average annually since 1995.  It has significantly outgrown electricity supply, thus leading to chronic energy shortages that undermine the country's economic and social development.  Meanwhile, about 289 million citizens, or a quarter of the population, are still waiting to access any kind of electricity supply to improve the state and quality of their lives.

The great advantage of solar power is that it can directly address this energy shortfall with local, indigenous resources, and without further contributing to global climate change.  Furthermore, the technology used to generate solar electricity lends itself to the conditions of remote communities that are still not connected to the grid.  Both the Jawaharlal Nehru National Solar Mission and the Asia Solar Energy Initiative are taking advantage of these benefits from solar energy given the ripe circumstance on the ground in India, and where suited, in the rest of the region.

This time we have chosen to hold our meeting at this the historic city of Jodhpur, at the edge of the Thar or the Great Indian Desert. While the beauty of the desert landscape is certainly an attraction, what has attracted us to this city is the key role that this region, and the state of Rajasthan as a whole, is playing for the development of solar energy in India. On 26 April, many of us will get an opportunity to visit a 40MW photovoltaic solar power generation facility of Reliance Power at Dahanu, in the Jaisalmer district of Rajasthan. While this is already one of the larger facilities of its type in India, I am pleased to inform you that ADB has just agreed to extend financing for a 100 MW expansion of this facility using concentrated solar thermal technology, making it one of the largest solar power generation facilities in India, and one of the largest in Asia. My colleague, Michael Barrow, who is the Director of the Division making the loans to Reliance Power, is here with us today and will share his views on it during his presentation.

I would like to especially thank Reliance Power for sponsoring a field trip for some 70 lucky participants to visit the Dahanu Solar Power Plant on Thursday as part of this ASEF Meeting.

III. Significance of the Asia Solar Energy Forum in Rajasthan

The Asia Solar Energy Forum was envisioned as a platform for solar energy stakeholders to share and process knowledge on solar energy and smart grid applications that will help lower the barriers and accelerate the development of solar energy in the region.  I have always maintained that, together with the dearth of high-quality solar resource inventories for developing member countries, the lack of strong domestic capacity significantly constrains solar energy development in the region.

Today we find ourselves in Jodhpur, also known as the Sun City.  Here the Indian Institute of Technology in Rajasthan has established a pioneering Center of Excellence in energy.  Among its primary objectives is to harness solar energy to generate electricity.  Towards this goal, 200 acres of campus land has been earmarked to develop a solar park that will showcase all the existing solar energy technologies under one roof.  Moreover, an International Center for Solar Energy Technologies is presently being set up on the campus specifically for manpower development and entrepreneurship.  In fact, in the last three days prior to our meeting today, the Center organized and hosted a conference on Smart Grid Technologies for Renewable Energy Sources. Prof. Kalra, the Director of IIT, Rajasthan, is here with us today and will share some of his thoughts at this inaugural session.

It is the overall potential for solar energy based electricity generation, and this type of proactive, home-grown capacity building initiatives, that has drawn the ADB to states in India such as Gujarat and Rajasthan.  And bringing attention to the efforts on the ground is a large part of ASEF's knowledge management strategy. And this is not only in India. I am happy to mention that there is steady progress on similar works in Thailand, the People's Republic of China, and Uzbekistan as well. The Government of Uzbekistan and the ADB jointly inaugurated an International Solar Energy Research Institute this February, and work on identifying six large sites for solar electricity production is underway. I am pleased to see a high level delegation from Uzbekistan at the meeting here.

IV. Expectations from the 4th Meeting of ASEF

So as not to delay this meeting further, let me conclude by observing that this fourth meeting of ASEF reflects the gradual maturity of the forum since it began in Manila in 2010.  At the onset, much of the plenary was dedicated to promoting a general understanding of solar energy technologies and their potential, and to exploring how solar energy might be considered a significant part of the region's energy mix by tapping this potential.  Over the next two days, the plenary has graduated into exploring the frontiers of solar energy development in the region and around the world. We always differentiate ASEF by bringing in something new to each meeting. This time it is my pleasure to inform you that we will have guest speakers from the International Finance Corporation, and the Inter-American Development Bank, to share experiences from Africa and Latin America. We have also included a session to discuss use of solar energy in hybrid systems.

Finally, I would like to once again thank all our resources speakers and experts for taking time off to share their knowledge with us.  Last but not least, I would like to thank all of you, the participants, for making the trip to Jodhpur to share your knowledge and experience with us.  This forum was created to serve you and we request you to make full use of it.

I wish you all a pleasant morning and a productive two days of stimulating discussions.