National Solar Mission, Explained!

National solar mission (NSM) was launched on 11th January 2010 by former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh. It was an initiative by the Indian Government to promote ecologically sustainable growth while also addressing India’s energy challenges. The target of this mission was to achieve 20 GW of power by 2022. Later, it was increased to 100 GW by Prime Minister Narendra Modi in 2015.

National Solar Mission, was set to be carried out in three phases:

  1. Phase-I (2010-2013): The target was to set up 1,000 MW grid-connected solar plants, 100 MW of rooftop and small solar plants and 200 MW off-grid solar applications.
  2. Phase II (2013-2017): The aim of the second phase of the mission was to install 4000-10000 MW utility grid power, including rooftop and 1000 MW off-grid solar applications. 
  3. Phase-III (2017-2022): The phase three target was to set up 20 million sq meters of solar thermal collectors, 2000 MW of off-grid solar applications and 20000 MW of grid power, including rooftop and small plants.

    Read more: Jawaharlal Nehru National Solar Mission (Phase I, II and III)

According to reports, in 2022 India now stands at 61 GW solar power capacity missing the 100 GW capacity by 40 GW. The target of producing 280 GW of solar-powered electricity by 2030 is also set to miss if this trend goes on and the challenges are not addressed.

Solar Power Plant Telangana II in India |
Solar Power Plant Telangana II in India | Courtesy: Thomas Lloyd Group/Wikimedia Commons

What were the challenges?

  1. Import dependence: almost 84% requirements of India’s National Solar Mission are met through imports from China since India’s solar manufacturing capacity is limited to only 15 GW per year. India lacks raw materials like polysilicon and silver which are supplied by China. Recently in December 2022, Adani solar stated that it plans to set up 30,000 metric tons of polysilicon and 500 metric tons of monosilane capacity in India. 
  2. Losses in Transmission and distribution: the cost of transmission and distribution loss of grid power is around 40% which makes solar energy quite impractical. These losses are the result of inefficiency in the transmission sector, faulty meters and electricity theft. Because of T&D losses remote power systems such as off-grid applications are to be preferred over the grid collectors. Off-grid power has advantages over unreliable, fault-prone and interrupted grid connections and with no overhead wires, there is no scope for transmission loss.
  3. The slow growth of solar rooftops: According to the Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis, the major limiting factor for the slow growth is the policy uncertainty and regulatory pushbacks. Although rooftop solar power has seen significant growth, only 25% was contributed by residential consumers. High cost is another reason for the slow growth, it would cost Rs. 46,923 for a rooftop solar system with a capacity of 1 kW in general states and UTs and Rs. 51,616 in other states as stated by the Ministry of New & Renewable Energy. Therefore people find it difficult to make the transition.
Also Read:  National Mission On Sustainable Habitat, Explained!

Read more: Why the rooftop sector is lagging in India’s race for solar energy

Conclusion

Although there are some major setbacks that need to be addressed, with proper regulations, infrastructure and lowering of cost India have a vast potential to emerge as a leader in solar power.

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