IEA Executive Director inaugurates solar power plants in India

13 September 2012

Photo: © OECD/IEA, 2012. IEA Executive Director Maria van der Hoeven with officials from the Ladakh Renewable Energy Development Agency and the Dean and Vice-Dean of the Lamdon Senior Secondary School in Leh.

IEA Executive Director Maria van der Hoeven visited the Ladakh region in the Indian state of Jammu and Kashmir from 6 to 8 September to experience the benefits brought by decentralised solar photovoltaic (PV) and solar thermal systems to a population living at an altitude of about 4 000 meters. 

During her visit to the region, which formed part of her annual high-level policy dialogue with Indian officials, Ms. Van der Hoeven inaugurated a 12.5 kilowatt-peak solar PV power plant at the Government Degree College and a second solar PV power plant at the Lamdon Senior Secondary School Hostel. Annual per-capita electricity consumption across India is 597 kilowatt-hours, according to IEA data from 2011.  

The Ladkah region is heavily dependent on hydropower, diesel and kerosene to meet its energy requirements, but the hostile natural environment during long winters creates substantial energy vulnerability since roads and air links cannot be operated reliably throughout the year.

Since June 2010, the Ladakh Renewable Energy Development Agency – which is a nodal agency of the Indian Ministry of New and Renewable Energy – has been implementing 125 off-grid solar PV power plants for village electrification in order to benefit educational, medical and religious institutions, as well as promoting solar water heater and greenhouse installation, solar cooking systems, space heating (for warming enclosed areas) and solar powered irrigation projects.

In addition to minimising dependence on diesel and kerosene, and thereby reducing greenhouse emissions, the project aims to improve energy access in dispersed communities. Those communities, where the majority of Ladakh’s population live, experience substantial energy hardship due to their isolated locations.

The project in Ladakh is part of India’s overall push for renewable energy. The country launched an ambitious plan in 2010 to significantly augment solar power. As of January 2012, installed capacity of renewable power generation totalled 23 Gigawatts (GW), equivalent to nearly 12% of total power capacity, though solar photovoltaic represented only 2% of total renewable installation. But India’s 12th Five-Year Plan (FY 2012-17) envisages an ambitious capacity expansion of renewable power of nearly 30 GW, a third of it solar.

During her visit to India, Ms. Van der Hoeven also had meetings with the Minister of Power, Mr. Veerappa Moily, the Minister of Petroleum and Natural Gas, Mr. Jaipal Reddy and Mr. Montek Singh Ahluwalia, the Deputy Chairman of the Planning Commission. She also met with the Minister of New and Renewable Energy, Dr. Farookh Abdullah, who invited her to visit Ladakh.

Ms. Van der Hoeven also presented key findings from the IEA’s Energy Technology Perspectives 2012 publication at a roundtable event organised by the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry.