Coal India pushes into solar

Coal India is diversifying its core business through a plan to install 600 megawatts of solar power in four states.

The announcement, published on Sunday by Economic Times, is part of an agreement with the Solar Energy Corporation of India (SECI) to build 1,000 megawatts of solar capacity throughout the country between 2014 and 2019.

"In the first phase, CIL is going to set up 2×100 MW solar power plants in the state of Madhya Pradesh. In the second phase CIL is going to develop a capacity of 600 MW in the solar parks of Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, West Bengal and Maharashtra for which NIT [Notice Inviting Tender] has already been floated by SECI," the world's largest coal producer said in its annual report.

India is the third-largest producer of coal, behind China and the U.S. Yet it relies heavily on imports because of mismanagement and an onerous bureaucracy in coal exploration, production and power generation. As a result, nearly a quarter of India's 1.2 billion people have no electricity, according to the World Bank.

The Indian government is well aware of the problem and has been actively pushing to not only produce more coal domestically, but also to diversify its energy mix.

“The world must turn to (the) sun to power our future,” Prime Minister Narendra Modi said at the 2015 COP21 climate conference. “As the developing world lifts billions of people into prosperity, our hope for a sustainable planet rests on a bold, global initiative.” That plan is to derive 40 percent of its energy from renewable sources by 2030, including 100 GW of solar energy by 2022. The target is ambitious, since India currently only has about 8 GW of installed solar.

However strides are being made. A new report by Mercom Capital Group says that India is likely to install 4.8 GW of solar capacity in 2016. The clean energy communications and research firm also said the solar project pipeline in India is now about 21 GW, with 14 GW under development and 7 GW scheduled to be auctioned, as reported Sunday by Economic Times.