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India unveils plans for massive solar power boost

Hindu women pray to the Sun God in Mumbai, Oct 2009
There is no shortage of the key raw material in India

India has approved plans for a huge increase in the amount of electricity it generates from solar power.

It aims to boost solar output 1,000-fold over 12 years from its current negligible level. Its 20 gigawatt target would power several big cities.

The government wants to reduce India's dependence on coal and boost the export industry for solar power equipment.

Critics say solar power will supplement - and not replace - fossil fuels even under India's most ambitious plans.

Concerns over land

"The cabinet gave its approval for launching of the Jawaharlal Nehru national solar mission, Solar India," Information Minister Ambika Soni said in Delhi.

The $19bn (£12bn) three-phased plan aims to boost solar power output across the country from close to zero to 20 gigawatts by 2022.

It is hugely ambitious and has been welcomed by the country's renewable energy suppliers, although some say it is unclear where the money will come from, says the BBC's technology correspondent Mark Gregory.

But even if everything does go to plan, solar power will only meet a small part of India's burgeoning energy consumption, he adds.

India hopes to build a solar power industry that matches early leaders in the sector such as China, Germany and Japan.

There is no shortage of the key raw material in India but high population densities could be a problem, our correspondent says.

Industrial scale solar power plants require a lot of space, so there are questions about where they can be built in India without throwing large numbers of people off their land, he says.



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