Quantcast

Small Solar is a Big Deal

Renewable Energy

Sierra Club International

By Justin Guay

Photo courtesy of Shutterstock

The Bloomberg Cleantech numbers for 2012 are in and the story is one we're by now familiar with—small solar is a big deal. Despite a slight dip in overall clean tech investment, solar continues to dominate and the big area of growth was, you guessed it, distributed generation. That's because we've entered a new era of cheap PV where installations are up, total investment volumes down (as solar continues its inexorable price decline) and trade wars are expanding as countries fight for market share in tomorrow's technology. The problem is that India, with perhaps the largest potential of all emerging markets, hasn't even begun to adapt to this new normal.

The most important reason to adapt is the speed with which it produces results. That's because small scale, localized deployment is agile and capable of growing rapidly. An attribute that large-scale centralized solar farms lack—especially in India.

To understand how important the nimble nature of distributed solar can be to a country's market look at what happened in China. Facing an industry meltdown as global market turmoil increased (i.e. massive oversupply), trade wars expanded, and domestic manufacturers faced insolvency the government moved quickly to stimulate domestic demand. Beijing doubled the solar target for 2015 three times in just one year to an astounding 40 GW—eight times the initial target. But most importantly, the centralization happy Chinese ensured distributed solar programs—the Golden Sun and Solar Rooftop program—were in place.

The result was rapid and impressive. Q4 solar investment grew dramatically and China went from global supplier to a significant source of demand accounting for one-third of the global market. Most importantly though, demand is increasingly distributed. Distributed solar growth is expected to exceed 90 percent during 2013 growing to 35 percent of the total Chinese market.

India's response is another story all together. Facing a similarly difficult operating environment for domestic manufacturers, India has neither amended its original goal of 20 GW by 2022, nor has it created dedicated support for distributed generation. The result is a lopsided market overwhelmingly reliant on large-scale solar farms, which, amongst other problems, is at the mercy of domestic banks that refuse to lend to solar at competitive rates hindering the sector's growth.

My colleagues at Natural Resources Defense Council have great advice for the Indian government that will encourage financing, domestic manufacturing and deployment. To this must be added: go where the growth is. In a country with enormous peak load deficits, and 300-400 million off grid rural poor, policies that fail to incentivize and streamline distributed solar are a waste of time—and money. What's worse, a lack of support for distributed generation threatens the entire market.

Take Tamil Nadu in India, which has big plans for solar. A recent tender for a whopping one gigawatt of solar was met with lukewarm response with only 500 MW secured. If Tamil Nadu is going to live up to the hype (some project it will constitute 40 percent of the Indian market) it's going to need to become intimately familiar with the new normal. Creating a third party financing vehicle (think solar city in the U.S.) backed with public funds (like the World Bank for instance) or replicating dedicated rooftop solar programs (like Gujarat has done) would do the trick.

So to recap, distributed solar is the lone growing clean tech market and China is moving fast to take advantage to support domestic manufacturers. Distributed solar has fast results and in countries like India it has real social impact. India fails to adapt to this new normal at its own peril.

Visit EcoWatch’s RENEWABLES page for more related news on this topic.

——–

Click here to tell Congress to Expedite Renewable Energy.

 

EcoWatch Daily Newsletter

Bumblebees flying and pollinating a creeping thyme flower. emeliemaria / iStock / Getty Images

It pays to pollinate in Minnesota.

Read More Show Less
Aerial view of icebergs on Arctic Ocean in Greenland. Explora_2005 / iStock / Getty Images

The annual Arctic thaw has kicked off with record-setting ice melt and sea ice loss that is several weeks ahead of schedule, scientists said, as the New York Times reported.

Read More Show Less
Sponsored
Sled dog teams pull researchers from the Danish Meteorological Institute through meltwater on the Greenland ice sheet in early June, 2019. Danish Meteorological Institute / Steffen M. Olsen

By Jon Queally

In yet the latest shocking image depicting just how fast the world's natural systems are changing due to the global climate emergency, a photograph showing a vast expanse of melted Arctic ice in Greenland — one in which a pair of sled dog teams appear to be walking on water — has gone viral.

Read More Show Less
CAFOs often store animal waste in massive, open-air lagoons, like this one at Vanguard Farms in Chocowinity, North Carolina. Bacteria feeding on the animal waste turns the mixture a bright pink. picstever / Flickr / CC BY-ND 2.0

By Tia Schwab

It has been almost a year since Hurricane Florence slammed the Carolinas, dumping a record 30 inches of rainfall in some parts of the states. At least 52 people died, and property and economic losses reached $24 billion, with nearly $17 billion in North Carolina alone. Flood waters also killed an estimated 3.5 million chickens and 5,500 hogs.

Read More Show Less
Members of the NY Renews coalition gathered before New York lawmakers reached a deal on the Climate and Communities Protection Act. NYRenews / Twitter

By Julia Conley

Grassroots climate campaigners in New York applauded on Monday after state lawmakers reached a deal on sweeping climate legislation, paving the way for the passage of what could be some of the country's most ambitious environmental reforms.

Read More Show Less
Sponsored
In this picture taken on June 4, an Indian boatman walks amid boats on the dried bed of a lake at Nalsarovar Bird Sanctuary, on the eve of World Environment Day. Sam Panthaky / AFP / Getty Images

By Julia Conley

Nearly 50 people died on Saturday in one Indian state as record-breaking heatwaves across the country have caused an increasingly desperate situation.

Read More Show Less
A man carries a poster in New York City during the second annual nationwide March For Science on April 14, 2018. Kena Betancur / Getty Images

By Will J. Grant

In an ideal world, people would look at issues with a clear focus only on the facts. But in the real world, we know that doesn't happen often.

People often look at issues through the prism of their own particular political identity — and have probably always done so.

Read More Show Less

YinYang / E+ / Getty Images

In a blow to the Trump administration, the Supreme Court ruled Monday to uphold a Virginia ban on mining uranium, Reuters reported.

Read More Show Less