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Two Solar Articles
Solar Manufacturing Policy, Covid, Soft Power, the International Solar Alliance
I have been a bit remiss in posting here of late. Linking to two pieces, one from April and one from May. The second follows on somewhat from the first. In the first, I suggest that our strategy for promoting solar manufacturing is wrong and in the second, I suggest one means to promote solar manufacturing that does not involve raising tariffs or spending money on production linked objectives.
In the April piece, I argue that pushing solar manufacturing at all costs is a risky and misguided strategy. Looking at historic experiences with high tariffs and the relative failure of the state in India to implement industrial policy successfully, I suggest that there is no certainty that a combination of customs duties plus a production linked incentive will lead to the growth of a sufficiently large and efficient domestic manufacturing industry.
What is certain is that this will increase the price of solar power, with consequences for the growth of the sector and economy as a whole, while also compromising our climate objectives.
The second piece was a hard one to write - in the face of the second wave of Covid most other issues pale into relative insignificance.
Our flailing response to the pandemic has damaged India's global reputation. I suggest that we can start rebuilding our soft power by taking greater leadership in global issues like climate change. In this context, India can leverage its leadership position in the International Solar Alliance, the only multilateral agency based in India.
We can help upscale the ISA by placing greater emphasis on its R&D mandate and sharing the benefits with members. A suggestion to consider is for the GoI to build a strong research focussed institution jointly with the ISA.
This should be done as a public-private partnership - the US does this with its National Energy Laboratories and Covaxin was developed by ICMR, NIV and Bharat Biotech in similar fashion. This R&D facility can play an anchoring role by accelerating the creation of home-grown businesses that take its work forward commercially, which will also help build a stronger domestic solar equipment manufacturing sector.