UPDATE 1-Downturn hits India renewables; solar plan by Dec

Mon Aug 10, 2009 6:00pm IST

* Hundreds of firms vying for a stake in green energy sector

* Solar plan part of ambitious $19 billion, 30-year scheme

By Krittivas Mukherjee

NEW DELHI, Aug 10 (Reuters) - The global financial crisis is hurting India's hopes of attracting about $21 billion worth of investments in renewable energy by 2012, but a new solar plan expected to be rolled out by December could provide a boost.

Renewables energy officials said on Monday they had already received more than $3 billion worth of investment since 2007, which could generate about 3,000 megawatts (MW) of power, almost half of it from wind energy alone.

Domestic and foreign companies such as India's Tata group and Reliance Industries as well as state-run utilities are among hundreds of companies vying for a stake in India's emerging green energy sector.

But the global financial crisis may have slowed investments and India could find it difficult to meet its target of generating 14,500 MW of green power by 2012.

"We were quite hopeful but it may not be possible to do so (now)," Deepak Gupta, the most senior civil servant in the renewables ministry, told reporters.

India aims to generate 25,000 megawatts of power from renewable energy over the next four years, more than double the current generation level of 12,000 MW.

PLAN'S THRUSTS

Only three percent of India's total power mix is now from renewables, and developing this sector is at the centre of India's national plan on climate change which does not commit to any emission targets.

One of the thrusts of that plan is developing solar power and India has plans of generating 20 gigawatts of solar power by 2020.

"We hope to roll out the plan by the end of this calender year," Gupta said.

Debashish Majumdar, chairman and managing director, said once the solar plan took off it could become a game changer for India's green energy sector, as top global companies were waiting for an opportunity to invest.

The target, which would help India close the gap on solar front-runners like China, is part of an ambitious $19 billion, 30-year scheme that could could increase India's leverage in international talks for a new U.N. climate pact in December, one of several measures meant to help cut emissions.

If fully implemented, solar power would be equivalent to one-eighth of India's current installed power base, helping the world's fourth-largest emitter of planet-warming greenhouse gas emissions limit its heavy reliance on dirty coal and assuaging the nagging power deficit that has crimped its growth.

Majumdar said India was also shifting from a policy of investment-based incentive to generation-linked incentives for renewables projects. (Editing by Alistair Scrutton and James Jukwey)

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