Prime Minister Narendra Modi today highlighted the importance of self-reliance on solar power amid trade tensions with China – a major exporting nation – as he launched a massive 750 megawatt (MW) solar power plant in Madhya Pradesh. India last week announced it would stop solar equipment imports from China and Pakistan amid the tension along the Line of Actual Control and the resulting counter-attacks in trade.
“We must work towards reducing our import dependency on solar panels and related equipment. We need to speed up our production capacity of solar modules… and solar batteries should be made in India. We need to speed up all work in these areas,” PM Modi said at the virtual launch of the project.
Union Power Minister RK Singh on July 4 at a meeting with state power ministers had said Chinese firms have been dumping cheap solar equipment into India. He sought a significant hike in tariffs on solar modules and cells. The same day, the centre announced India would no longer import power equipment from China and Pakistan.
“China has been dumping solar equipment into India at throwaway prices. They have been trying to hurt the Make in India programme by subsidising their firms and selling equipment cheap. We have to stop them,” Mr Singh told NDTV last month. “Next year we will charge basic customs duty of 40 per cent on solar modules and up to 25 per cent on solar cells. They will be hiked further in 2022,” he told NDTV.
India imported power equipment worth Rs 71,000 crore in 2018-19, of which Rs 21,000 crore went to buy Chinese equipment, Mr Singh said on July 4.
The Delhi Metro Rail Corporation whose vast urban train network depends on reliable electricity is a customer of the solar project in north-east Madhya Pradesh’s Rewa, built with an investment of Rs 4,500 crore.
Madhya Pradesh Governor Anandiben Patel logged in from Lucknow and Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan from Bhopal at the launch of the project that has three solar power generating units of 250 MW each on 500 hectare, taking the total output to 750 MW on 1,500 hectare.
Madhya Pradesh will get 76 per cent electricity from the Rewa solar plant and Delhi Metro 24 per cent.
UN chief Antonio Guterres on Thursday praised India as a “good example” of pursuing clean energy. “The seeds of change are there. Renewable energy is the only energy source expected to grow in 2020. Solar auctions have seen popularity amidst the height of the pandemic. India serves as a good example. Renewables offer three times more jobs than the fossil fuel industry,” Mr Guterres said.
India started the International Solar Alliance in 2015 as a coalition of solar resource-rich countries to meet their energy needs.