In a historic moment for India, it has been reported this week that the price of solar power has reached parity with coal for the first time. For certain parts of the country, solar power is actually cheaper than coal. As a nation famously dependent on coal as a source of power, the increasingly cheap price of solar energy is being hailed as a turning point in India’s development. India has made some bold plans for solar power in recent times, including a 15 point plan that aims to add more than 100GW of solar power to the grid by 2022 – over 40% of the entire nation’s current electrical capacity.
Solar equal or cheaper than coal across most of India
Currently solar power costs about 4.34 rupees (about 6 US cents) a kilowatt-hour (kWh) in India, while coal tariffs range usually in between 3–5 rupees/kWh (about 5–8 US cents). Not only does this cost parity make adding new solar capacity to the grid much easier to justify, adding additional coal generated power to the grid no longer makes financial sense, as Indian energy minister Piyush Goyal recently pointed out;
“I think a new coal plant would give you costlier power than a solar plant. Of course there are challenges of 24/7 power. We accept all of that – but we have been able to come up with a solar-based long term vision that is not subsidy based.” – Indian energy minister Piyush Goyal
Currently India is the world’s third larger greenhouse gas emitter. At the Paris Climate Conference last December, India’s participation, lack of clean energy goals and record of pollution met with much criticism. However, many have pointed to the cheap cost of solar power (something achieved partially because of a government-run subsidy system) as proof that India is turning over a new leaf when it comes to clean energy.