Friday, February 09, 2007

India Solar Power Update

Monthly update on the solar power scene in India...

To start with, India moved to joint second position in the E&Y Country Attractiveness Indices, which rank countries according to their desirability as locations for investing in renewable energies such as wind and solar power, even as the US reinforced its position atop the list.

On a related note, the list of energy companies in the World Economic Forum's 2007 Tech Pioneer Awards makes interesting reading. Not that there is any Indian company in that list (though there is one each in the biotech and IT lists). The list is dominated by US companies (9 out of 15), which might be considered a surprise since Europe and Japan are seen as far more environment conscious.

India has been invited to join the European Union's Seventh Research Framework Program (FP7). "The programme will fund research and development activities by companies, Government organisations and universities across diverse sectors like IT, biotechnology, energy and environment." Kapil Sibal, the Indian Minister for S&T said energy was the key sector specifically mentioning, "clean-coal energy, solar energy and hybrid fuels for automobiles".

Russian Physicist and 2000 Nobel laureate Zhores I. Alferov was in India recently and while speaking at the Institute of Mathematical Sciences (IMSc) stressed on solar power as the way forward for India. Thats a vote of confidence for solar power from the scientific community in addition to the solid vote from the business analyst community. Alferov won the Nobel for his work on semiconductor hetero-structures, and he believes that hetero-structures are the way forward to build PV cells in solar concentrators that would be cost-competitive against oil and atomic energy.

Financial Times has a story on Harish Hande of Selco India, who has built a successful business out of selling solar-powered home lighting systems to the rural poor. Based in Bangalore, his products currently serve 75,000 rural households, schools and seminaries. Since a lot of his customers are so poor, he has had to work hard to get banks to finance his products for them - but with the business such a success banks are rather eager to lend right now. This year he expects a big hit in business because of a shortage of solar panels due to huge demand from Europe, but expects production to catch up with his requirements next year.

Update: Link to the E&Y Country Attractiveness Index (pdf - restricted circulation)