India Solar Investment

Is Solar the Cheaper Option in India?

By
Monday, April 30th, 2012

Customer service call centers are not uncommon in India.

And while there are actually more customer service centers in the Philippines these days, India still controls more than 40 percent of the global offshore outsourcing market for software and back-office services.

But not everything can be outsourced...

Certainly you can't outsource innovation, something the U.S. still has a monopoly on.

And the truth is when it comes to technology, the U.S. remains fiercely competitive.

Just look at the solar industry.

While it's true China is the leader in solar manufacturing, where do you think that technology was invented?

I'll give you a hint: It wasn't Beijing!

And if you look at much of the R&D being done in the solar space today, nearly all of the major disruptive technologies being uncovered are coming from U.S. labs. From solar sprays to cost-cutting designs, the United States continues to lead the pack.

Even in the utility-scale solar space, American know-how is enabling new large-scale solar developments all over the world, the most recent being a 250 MW project in India.

India: Where Solar is Cheap

Although Areva is a French company, its solar division is essentially a U.S. startup called Ausra that was acquired by Areva in 2010.

You know the saying, “If you can't beat 'em, buy 'em”... well, that's exactly what Areva did.

The result: Today Areva — using American ingenuity — is building what will soon be one of the largest solar power plants in Asia.

The project will be completed in phases, with the first phase coming online next year and the second phase coming online in early 2015.

Of course, it doesn't hurt that India is becoming increasingly aggressive with its renewable energy policies these days...

You see, back in 2010 the government announced its National Solar Mission, which calls for 22 gigawatts of solar by 2022.

And believe me — India has plenty of reasons to embrace solar.

For one, it's becoming harder and harder for India to secure coal supplies.

As reported in the Economist, by 2017, domestic coal production in India will meet only 73% of demand. The country's already spent $7 billion over the past six years acquiring outside coal pits in Australia and Africa.

Of course, there are a lot of folks in India who rely on diesel-powered back-up generators, too. But with higher diesel prices, it actually costs more to run those generators compared to solar.

And this difference in cost will only grow further and further apart, as solar prices continue to fall while diesel prices continue to rise.

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Don't Choke on Progress

India is also in dire need of expanding its power portfolio to include less-pollutive sources.

Last year, India was ranked as having the world's unhealthiest air pollution, according to a Yale study.

To make matters worse, the government set an initiative to power the entire country by 2012. This is a pretty aggressive goal considering there are more than 200 million people living without electricity...

If most of this new power is to be generated by fossil fuels, emissions could double by 2030, thereby further exacerbating India's pollution problems.

Now it is very likely the majority of India's power will continue to come from fossil fuels.

However, integrating more solar and wind into the mix will alleviate some of the environmental burdens that will come with explosive growth...

And that's exactly what India's doing.

To a new way of life and a new generation of wealth...

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Jeff Siegel

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Jeff is the managing editor of Energy and Capital and contributing analyst for the Energy Investor, an independent investment research service focusing primarily on stocks in the oil & gas, modern energy and infrastructure markets.  He has been a featured guest on Fox, CNBC, and Bloomberg Asia, and is the author of the best-selling book, Investing in Renewable Energy: Making Money on Green Chip Stocks. For more on Jeff, go to his editor's page.


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