Friday, August 07, 2009

Climate change: India goes solar

While the developed world wrings its hands over climate change and comes up with new excuses for inaction, the developing world is acting. First we have had a string of Pacific island nations - Tuvalu, Tokelau, Niue - setting 100% reduction targets. And now we have India, one of the world's largest emitters but still a developing nation and not responsible for the problem, setting itself an extremely ambitious solar energy target:

Although India has virtually no solar power now, the plan envisages the country generating 20GW from sunlight by 2020. Global solar capacity is predicted to be 27GW by then, according to the International Energy Agency, meaning India expects to be producing 75% of this within just 10 years.


The plan provoked prolonged discussion at a meeting of the national climate change council in New Dehli yesterday, which resulted in major changes from early drafts. The draft document had envisaged a government subsidy of around $20bn (£11bn), and falling production costs, in order to achieve a long-term 2040 target of 200GW of solar power.

20GW by 2020 is 5% of their expected electricity generation. 200GW by 2040 is about 20%. That's an awful lot of carbon dioxide they won't be emitting. I'm not sure if it will be enough, but as with their massive shift to wind, its certainly an enormous step in the right direction.

There is a catch, of course: India expects the developed world to keep its word and help fund this massive downward shift in their emissions pathway. But if that's the price of reaching a global deal which eventually brings India in, then it seems worth it to me.