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PBD 2012: India seeks investors for solar energy projects

January 07, 2012 18:53 IST

On the first day of the 10th Pravasi Bharatiya Divas in Jaipur, India sought investors to fulfill its goals in the field of solar energy, report Priyanka

The Pink City on Saturday played host to the many delegates who are attending the Pravasi Bharatiya Divas. The three-day event has been jointly organised by the Ministry of Overseas Indian Affairs, Confederation of Indian Industries and the government of Rajasthan.

One of the first sessions focused on investing in solar energy projects. Deepak Gupta, former secretary at the ministry of new & renewable energy, told the participating NRIs, "The session is for you, to exchange our views and give information to you."

The Jawaharlal Nehru National Solar Mission, popularly known as the National Solar Mission, is an ambitious and multi-crore project that was initiated by the central and state governments. The mission aims to establish solar energy projects prominently in the country.

Gupta explained that there is a great market for investment in solar energy projects. "The prospect of solar energy as an alternate source of energy is immense. This sector will hopefully see huge growth in the years to come," he said.

Namo Narain Meena, minister of state for finance, echoed this belief and said that India is the third most favoured nation for investing in solar energy projects.

"There are only two other nations which are seen as more attractive for making investments in solar energy initiatives -- the US and China," he said.

Rajasthan and Gujarat have been among the early investors in solar energy.  

 "Gujarat took the lead in establishing solar energy projects in the country. Gandhinagar was the first city to be called the rooftop city, as almost all the houses had solar panels on the rooftop and each house harnessed solar energy," explained Gujarat's Principal Secretary Dr D J Pandian.

"We have invested heavily in the infrastructure," he added.

But Rajasthan may have just overtaken the bastion. With a total desert area of 208, 110 sq kms, the state is capable of producing 300,000 MW of energy in an area of 15,000 sq kms. The market for solar energy initiatives in Rajasthan is huge.

"By 2022, we plan to harness more than 20 GW of solar power," said Rajasthan's Secretary of Energy Naresh Pal Gangwar.

"As part of the Rajasthan Policy Act, we plan to establish 500 MW of solar energy projects per annum by 2013. The selection of the projects would be through competitive bidding," he said.

The chief operating officer of Lanco limited was also present at the discussion. "India is a highly attractive place for setting up solar energy projects. It is because of the type of radiation harnessed as solar energy," he argued.

The panel was then opened up for questions posed by the NRIs in the audience. A few prospective investors wanted to know if investing in solar energy projects in India was indeed a profitable preposition. 

Gangwar responded, "Every time we offer to bid, the response is ten times of what we expect. But you have to calculate how much you are willing to invest. You will have to chart a workable business model for yourself."

A few others wanted to know how much the investment in a typical solar energy project in the country is.

"This is a very capital-intensive sector. Bidding and investment has come down from Rs 16-17 crore to usually begin with Rs 9-10 crore now for projects harnessing roughly 1 mega watz of solar energy," said Gangwar.

There were also quite a few dissenting voices in the audience. They complained that though India is a hub of call centres, there is nobody to provide them the right feedback on the phone. When an audience member demanded that a customer services department must be set up for NRIs, his suggestion was greeted with enthusiastic applause.

Priyanka