Farooq promises duty free imports to power solar mission

Farooq Abdullah promises to provide every help and concessions to bring solar energy on par with fossil-fuel based energy

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Neha Sethi | February 4, 2010




Farooq Abdullah, Union Minister for New and Renewal Energy, is gung-ho about the solar mission and is ready to do whatever it takes to make it a success. He is planning to fully exempt import duties on solar panels and other components and provide other concessions. The tariff structure is so designed to act as incentive. Here he talks to Governance Now's Neha Sethi about his latest passion:

Why is there suddenly an emphasis now on solar energy?
Because up to this time there was no avenue for it. Now the world has become aware that there are methods whereby this energy can be captivated and used to prevent global warming from other sources. There is more attention on it today but they have been working for last two years on this policy of Jawaharlal Nehru solar mission.

Do you think we didn’t react early enough to the opportunity that solar energy provides and have lost an opportunity?
No I don’t think we have lost an opportunity. We have seen other countries. We are learning from them and the mistakes they made, probably we will not make. We will also commit mistakes but at least we will not fall into the pit holes they fell in.

Which are the other countries that are into solar energy in a big way?
Spain and Germany have a lot of solar power. In America, there is a lot of solar power. Lots of countries are into it. Europe is now developing solar power from Sahara and carrying that power under the Mediterranean to Europe.

What difference will solar power generation make to the country?
By 2022, we will generate 20,000 MW of power from solar power. That will be a start. Then technology will be improved and other things will have improved and therefore it will go in much bigger way.

This project coincided with your coming to power, so is it your pet project?
I think I was just one of those lucky fellows who came at a slot when it was to come out.

What do you do in a day to make this project your own?
I do as much running and jumping as I can to all the states, I talk to all the chief ministers, the governors, the officers concerned with this ministry at those states to develop this energy and giving them all the help that we can give them.

What is your personal goal in delivering alternate sources of energy to the country?
I feel that time has come when every village that has not seen power for years will start looking at a bulb and they will have better future. Health will also improve because there are places where people live in one room and they burn either kerosene or diesel or wood to see (in the dark) and that creates its own health hazards. So many of these children, mothers and others will not have to suffer from those illnesses and yet their children will have better electricity to study and their eyes will not have difficulties that they normally develop later on.

Are there similar targets for other non conventional sources of energy too?
We have already got nearly 11,000 MW from the wind. We hope to double this within this period of time. Because that expertise is very much in India and a lot of work has been done. That is now our main source at this time for the present. Then hydro: micro hydro is being developed in a big way.
We have got a new device. Flow of water in canals is also going to generate electricity from small generators that they have put in them. So every village will have its own power supply. We hope that every village thereby will create employment for the man there who will manage the electricity.

There will be street lighting, home lighting and the biggest advantage is distant education. I feel time has come when many of these areas, far flung areas where teachers don’t go and yet they have schools, I am going to talk to the governments that they should start using solar panels and a TV set so that education can be given to them from distance. Children will be able to see better education. Women can be given education also. At the same time, told about what new methods have come in health, prevention of diseases, cooking or crafts that women can do. Farmers can be given time on which seed to be used, what plantation to be done and how to irrigate it.

How much will the government depend on corporate sector to deliver the energy dream?
I think corporate sector is already in it. Nothing is made by the government. We are only facilitators. Most of the work is done by private enterprise. We want to promote private enterprise in a very big way so that we become global masters in all these energies and we can export these energies to the other nations that are also weak in this energy.

There are huge investments involved in solar. How does the government plan to fund it?
Solar is already being funded. They are already funding first phase, second phase and third phase and they have a plan that by 2030 we should have nearly Rs 30,000 crore or something like that.

What are the incentives for the private sector to invest in these energies?
For many of these people, the components that are imported we hope to have them completely free of import duties and many other concessions are given so that they can be promoted. They can be given the boost which is necessary. The prices for power generation are also fixed in a way that the industry will feel comfortable. One, they will use the money that they will earn as profit, part of it for themselves, part to further expand their enterprise and partly to do research and development.

This is what the government is doing in a big way that they are spending money for research and development also in the IITs and IIMs. So some of them, they will be promoted by us, by the department, given all the help to develop manpower because finally manpower has to work these things. So you need human resource. So we are doing human resource development at the same time.

There are other incentives too. Tariff itself is an incentive that we are giving. Tariff is so much that it gives them enough incentive to do this. Phase 1 is only 1300 MW but we think we will have nearly over 3000 to 4000 MW as people are applying for it. So it’s quite a big thing.

Will the ministry do road shows abroad for fund collection?
No, why should we do fund collection? I don’t think so. We don’t need to do fund collection. The industry itself, which will put up these things, will be able to get the funds and we hope that they can get funds which are at cheaper rates so that they succeed in their mission.

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