It was in the month of May this year that Power Minister Pandurang Madkaikar had stated that a solar power policy would be in place within two months. The new government had just taken over some two months earlier, before this statement had been made. Now, five months later, the Power Minister has promised that the solar power policy will be released within 15 days, once it is approved by the Cabinet, and that the State plans to harness 150 MW of solar energy by 2022. This is in keeping with a proposal made earlier by the Joint Electricity Regulatory Commission (JERC) to the State that asked it to install solar panels to generate 150 mega watts of power.
A solar power policy has already been long delayed. The JERC proposal is not new and in the 2016 monsoon session of the Legislative Assembly, there had been discussions on the possibility of solar power being generated in the State, with the then Power Minister suggesting that panels could be fitted atop government building to generate solar power. The pace of work after that has been sluggish. The draft of the policy was ready, but got delayed, as stakeholders offered suggestions to improve the draft version after it was placed in the public domain.
The draft policy makes a few interesting points, especially when it refers to the ‘self-reliance in power generation’ and the promotion of a ‘clean source of power generation’ resulting in the reduction of carbon emissions, for which the State has opted for solar energy. It admits also that the ‘challenge before the State government is not only to meet the ever-growing demand for power, but also to progressively increase the share of renewable sources’.
The realisation of the need to reduce the dependency on conventional non-renewable sources of energy, such as fossil fuels, is dawning. Renewable energy will have to supplement fossil fuels, if not replace them fully, and for Goa, that apart from the monsoon season has bright sunshine for almost nine months, solar energy is the best option. As Goa takes a step towards solar power, it will at best be an experiment in the use of alternative energy sources. Countries across the world have experimented with renewable energy and there have been positive results, though the world is nowhere near replacing the use of fossil fuels with renewable energy.
Solar energy could change much for Goa that does not produce electricity and depends solely on the National Grid for its requirement. It may not be able to replace its dependency on the National Grid, but solar energy will supplement its power requirements and even help make good the shortfall in supply. Currently the State consumes about 550 to 600 MW of power daily, so an extra 150 MW will go a long way towards meeting the demand for power.
If Goa is to meet its target of 150 MW of solar power within the deadline, the policy cannot be delayed any longer. It is time for action, rather than talk. One positive for Goa is that there have been private companies that had shown an interest in setting up solar plants in the State. This, however, wasn’t taken forward as there was no policy in place, that allowed the State to enter into an agreement with the companies. With a policy now just weeks away, these could be taken up again so as to supplement the fossil fuel that is currently being used up, if not replacing it totally. For as the policy says, one of the challenges is to ‘progressively increase the share of renewable sources’, replacing the current power generation system is not conceivable at the present moment.