Indian solar power | The Economist

NARENDRA MODI, India’s prime minister, visits America for three days this week for talks with Barack Obama. Climate commitments may be one of many topics discussed. Six months ago 187 countries agreed to cut pollution through pledges for the UN climate talks in Paris. The deal adopted there was stronger than many expected, but much remains to be done. Even if countries manage to do all they offered, global warming will likely be held to around 3.5°C above pre-industrial temperatures. Conversely, the Paris deal aims overall to ensure warming does not exceed 2°C.

Unlike America and China, the world’s two largest polluters, India did not pledge a future reduction in aggregate emissions. It offered instead to reduce the intensity of its emissions—the amount of pollution per unit of economic output—by around a third by 2030 as measured against 2005 levels. Its greenest promise was to install 175GW of renewable power by 2022 (most of it solar). This is an enormous undertaking. In 2014, for example, the world’s entire installed solar capacity was 181GW.

The Modi government says the plans are “ambitious but achievable”. The country’s total installed solar power capacity now comes to 5.8GW; to meet its targets it will need to speed up from adding around 4GW a year to adding more than 15GW instead.

Mr Modi believes solar power is the “ultimate solution to India’s energy problem”. Of 250m households in India, 56m do not have access to electricity. The majority are in rural areas where off-grid solar installations, suitable for single homes or small clusters of buildings, could prove particularly helpful.

India’s solar programme is a good way to assess how seriously countries are taking the Paris agreement—particularly given India’s huge population and increasing economic heft. Mr Modi’s moves will illuminate the state of climate diplomacy.

Source: Daily chart: Indian solar power | The Economist

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