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Commentary: India marks 1GW solar milestone with power outage
Jackie Chang, DIGITIMES, Taipei [Friday 3 August 2012]

For a country to begin and maintain industrialization, infrastructures such as railroad systems, highways, bridges, ports, buildings, roads, and most important of all, electricity, are necessary. India, one of the world's largest emerging countries has been growing at an average rate of 7.37% (from 2000-2012). This astonishing growth requires even faster electricity growth. Nevertheless, India continues to be an electricity-starved country.

This week, when India should be celebrating the 1GW solar power milestone, half of the country has been suffering from power outage. According to PV Magazine, India's solar installation reached 1,030.66MW with most of the installations located in Gujarat.

Coal, ignite and hydro-electric are the main source of power generation in India, according to BBC News. In addition, homes and farms consume more power than industries and businesses, said the news outlet. According to Brisbane Times, demand for electricity in India regularly exceeds supply by 10% during summer. This means India is no stranger to power outages.

India has been seen as an emerging solar market with large potentials. Currently, there are still 300 million people without access to electricity. Charanka Solar Park, the world's largest solar power station and a cluster of 17 thin-film solar PV systems, is situated in Gujarat state. On April 19, 2012, 214MW of power was commissioned. When the construction of the park completes, it will host 500MW of solar PV installations. This figure might be small compared to the total installed electricity capacity of 170,000MW of the country, but it will help as per capita of electricity consumption in India has been low, around 107 watt per person (2011). India has lower per capita of electricity consumption than countries such as China, which is 389 watt per person, and the world average is 306 watt per person (2005-2012).

The government has been proposing energy bills to promote the use of solar power. In addition, to protect the domestic solar industry, the government has begun anti-dumping investigations against China-based solar firms. Despite the efforts, India is still in need of more power. Some believe the problem is not about generating power but to reduce the power losses during transmission and distribution. BBC News noted that in India, "transmission and distribution losses have leapt from 22% in 1995-1996 to 25.6% in 2009-2010."

For a country that hopes to continue growing at the current scale, a strong and powerful grid would certainly help.

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