Presidents Column October 2018

Friday, 26. October 2018

Solar deployments in India expected to grow rapidly, if not with some challenges

Karl Böer celebration of life held during award eremony at University of Delaware

In early October, at the Invitation of the Ministry of New and Renewable Energy of the Government of India, I flew to New Delhi to participate as a panelist in the 2nd RE-INVEST Renewable Energy Investor’s Meet and Expo. The purpose of this significant conference was to accelerate the worldwide effort to scale up renewable energy and connect the global investment community with Indian energy stakeholders. RE-INVEST 2018 was heavily represented by international public- and private-sector financial and policy experts. The event also hosted the First Assembly of the International Solar Alliance (ISA), of which ISES has applied to be an official partner.

 

There has been substantial press coverage of this event, especially on the reports of the significant gains India has made towards reaching its official solar target, stipulated in the country’s Solar Mission, of 100 GW installed capacity by 2022, and also of the technical and financial pitfalls that the country could inevitably confront in achieving such a rapid scale-up. These pitfalls include aggressive pricing strategies in renewable energy auctions that could result in non-sustainable financial conditions for the renewable energy projects.   

 

The panel in which I participated, titled “The Sun Overhead: India’s Rooftop Solar Program”, covered the policy and financial frameworks that will need to be put in place to achieve the 40 GW goal of rooftop solar that is included in the 100GW Solar Mission target. Rooftop solar holds much promise in India since the rooftop resource is extensive, and land availability for ground-mounted systems is limited. However, this sector of the solar target is progressing very slowly due to a cumbersome policy and regulatory framework and a lack of low-cost financing as well as limited straightforward procedures for accessing this financing. Furthermore, rooftop solar is typically behind the meter, even for large scale (commercial and industrial) building applications, which poses challenges for the utilities that must manage this variable resource in their grid operations. The financing challenges are further complicated by the significant differences associated with financing residential rooftop solar compared with commercial and industrial systems. I am planning to release a Sunburst article shortly that captures my opening statements on this panel.

 

Rabindra (Rabi) Satpathy, ISES Board representative from India and also a member of the Executive Committee, very kindly hosted me during my short stay. Rabi works for Jakson Limited, a power generation and EPC company that also has a major PV module manufacturing facility located in Noida, about 20 minutes from the India Expo Mart in Greater Noida where RE-INVEST was held. Jakson manufactures a variety of panels, including bifacial panels, with a total annual capacity of nearly 800 MW, but also develops both rooftop solar and ground-mounted systems, as well as emergency power generation systems. Rabi also introduced me to many key stakeholders at RE-INVEST, and on my last night there I was able to meet with Upendra Tripathy, who officially became the Director General of the International Solar Alliance during their First Assembly (he had been serving as Interim Director General until the Assembly). He welcomes the impending partnership with ISES and looks forward to ISES’ participation in the ISA events at COP24 in Poland in December.

 

RE-INVEST, however, was not my only significant event of this month. On 12 October both Paulette Middleton and I attended the 2018 Karl Böer Solar Energy Medal of Merit Award Ceremony at the University of Delaware. This year the award goes to Dr. Alex Zunger of the University of Colorado, who recently retired from the U.S. National Renewable Energy Laboratory after a stellar career in application of quantum physics and material sciences to PV technologies, improving their efficiencies and creating promising new technologies.

 

Karl passed away on 18 April this year, so we also attended the celebration of his life, organized by his family members, and held at the University earlier that same day as the Award Ceremony. Karl was a true solar pioneer. He had a considerable influence on ISES as well as the American Solar Energy Society (ASES). In the early 1980’s he created the “Advances in Solar Energy” series which is now managed by Yogi Goswami as “Progress in Solar Energy”. Karl also published the two-volume “History of ISES” in 2005, which documents in great detail the formation and history of ISES and its national sections, going all the way back to 1954.

 

As with previous Böer Award Ceremonies I was given the opportunity to present a welcoming address, where I acknowledged Karl’s incredible accomplishments in solar energy research and development. His work has contributed significantly to the great market success PV is enjoying today. Even more, ISES is working hard to make sure that PV becomes a mainstream energy source for our future electricity supply. I thanked Dr. Michael Klein, the Unidel Dan Rich Chair in Energy, and Dr. Dennis Assanis, the President of the University of Delaware for the invitation to give this welcoming speech. But I especially want to reach out and acknowledge Karl’s wife, Renate, who had a long and beautiful life with Karl and who herself has contributed significantly to both ASES and ISES. Paulette and I used the event to thank her for all she has done for our Societies, and for her unwavering warmth and friendship through the years.

 

Alex will be invited to participate in SWC2019 in Santiago, Chile next year to receive a Certificate from ISES and give a technical presentation at a special Karl Böer Solar Energy Medal of Merit session.