NEW DELHI, Jan. 13 (UPI) -- India plans to install 20 million solar lights and 20 million square meters of solar thermal panels to generate 20,000 megawatts by 2022 as part of its National Solar Mission, formally launched Monday.
"We propose to provide up to 90 percent support for setting up solar power plants," Renewable Energy Minister Farooq Abdullah said at the launch. "In many other solar applications, where the initial cost is still very high, we're considering proposals for providing up to a 30 percent grant in aid," he said.
India, Asia's third-largest energy consumer, relies on coal for more than half of its power capacity. Just a small fraction of India's power currently comes from solar energy, which costs about two and a half times more than power from coal.
By installing 20 million solar lights, for example, the minister said India would save 1 billion liters of kerosene every year.
As a "first benchmark" in the next three years, India also plans to add 1,300 megawatts of solar power of which 1,100 megawatts will be grid-connected and 200 megawatts will be off-grid, Abdullah said. "If we achieve this, achieving the remaining target will not be impossible."
Noting the high initial cost of solar energy, especially for grid power generation, Abdullah said he aims to bring down the cost "as quickly as possible."
Abdullah said India is working in "close coordination" with other stakeholders, particularly the United States, so India can emerge as a global solar power while making solar energy affordable in the country.
"I am convinced that solar energy can be the next scientific and industrial frontier in India," Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh said at the launch, The Hindu newspaper reports.
A Russian delegation visiting India said Tuesday Moscow sees "huge prospects" for joint ventures with India in the area of solar power.
In addition to forging joint ventures, Russia is also interested in setting up manufacturing facilities for the application of solar energy in industrial, military, civil and space sectors, Sergey V. Seredin, a director with Moscow-based Research-Production Enterprise "Kavant," told The Hindu.
Seredin said his company is planning to enter into a series of memorandums of understanding with Indian partners as well as government agencies for providing them with solar power station technology and installation.
India's "ambitious" solar mission, "if implemented fully would put India among the world leaders in (the) application of solar energy and its components," Seredin said.