India says it plans to double renewable energy sources by 2017

Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh said Wednesday that India planned to double its renewable energy sources by 2017.

NEW DELHI, India — The Indian government Wednesday said it planned to double its renewable energy capacity by 2017.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh said that India would ramp up its use of wind, solar and biomass energies in the coming years.

"It is proposed to double the renewable energy capacity in our country from 25,000 MW in 2012 to 55,000 megawatts by the year 2017," he said at the Fourth Clean Energy Ministerial conference in New Delhi.

"We have set ourselves a national target of increasing the efficiency of energy use to bring about a 20 to 25 per cent reduction in the energy intensity of our GDP by 2020."

Singh said that a low carbon strategy was necessary for sustainable growth.

This is not the first time that Singh has pledged to increase India's renewable energy output dramatically. In the past he has vowed to make nuclear energy account for 25 percent of India's power needs by 2050. And the Jawaharlal Nehru National Solar Mission created during his tenure aims to create 20,000 megawatts of solar energy generating capacity by 2023.

The stakes are huge, even without the threat of global warming. Not only does India rely on dirty coal for most of its power generation, but it also faces a looming coal shortage that will make it hostage to import prices in the near future. Air pollution already ranks among the leading causes of death. And the country desperately needs more power generating capacity.

Electricity shortages act as a constraint on economic growth, both preventing the development of the manufacturing sector and costing existing manufacturers serious money — as the country's ubiquitous backup generators, powered by diesel fuel, cost twice as much as energy supplied by the overloaded grid.

Singh, however, said these non-conventional sources of energy had reduced in price but were still higher than dirtier, more conventional sources of power, like coal.

It will soon be the second-largest contributor to increasing global energy demands, accounting for 18 percent of the growth.

Despite intense sunshine throughout the year, India has little solar capacity and much of its solar hardware is manufactured abroad.

Singh said that that needs to change.

"India is potentially a large market for production of such (solar) equipment and it is also a potentially competitive, attractive production base for supplying other countries," he said at the conference.