Can Solar Power Compete With Coal? In India, It's Gaining Ground

Electricity from sunlight costs less, a hopeful sign for developing nations building out their power grids. From a report: In a dusty northwest India desert dotted with cows and the occasional camel, a solar-power plant is producing some of the world’s cheapest energy. Built in 2018 by India’s Acme Solar Holdings, it can generate 200 megawatts of electricity, enough to power all the homes in a middle-size U.S. town. Acme sells the electricity to distributors for 2.44 rupees (3.4 cents) a kilowatt-hour, a record low for solar power in India, a country that data trackers say has the world’s cheapest solar energy. More remarkable, the power costs less to generate in India than the cheapest competing fossil fuel – coal – even with subsidies removed and the cost of construction and financing figured in, according to the Indian government and industry trackers. Price-conscious Indian utilities are eager to snap up that power. “We are infamous for low cost,” says Sandeep Kashyap, Acme’s president.

Solar power has entered a new global era. The industry was long dependent on subsidies and regulatory promotions. Now, technological innovation and falling solar-panel prices have made solar power inexpensive enough to compete on its own with other fuel sources in some regions [Editor’s note: the link may be paywalled.] , when it comes to newly built plants. That could turbocharge growth of renewables in the global energy industry, especially in fast-growing Asian markets where much of the world’s energy infrastructure expansion will take place. Governments in many solar markets – including China, the biggest – are phasing out or reducing supports. Solar-plant development is going mainstream, with finance provided by global investors like Goldman Sachs Group, Singaporean sovereign-wealth fund GIC and huge Western pension and private-equity funds.


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