India Now the World’s Most Economical Producer of Solar Power: Report

Renewable energy now produces one-third of the world’s power; India is producing it cheapest.

India has become the world’s most economical producer of solar power, according to the latest report from the International Renewable Energy Agency, otherwise known as IRENA.

While globally renewable energy prices are tumbling, India is setting the benchmark with the world’s cheapest solar power, with prices falling by 27% in 2018. As a compare-and-contrast exercise, average solar prices from large-scale installations in India were less than a third of the price of Canada’s, which the report observed as the most economically-prohibitive nation for solar power installations.

Between 2010 and 2018, the cost of establishing solar power networks fell in India by 80%; by far the largest decline in any country.

Source: IRENA - Used under the creative commons licence.

“Through its compelling business case, renewable energy has established itself as the technology of choice for new power generation capacity,” Adnan Z. Amin, director general of IRENA said.

“Strong growth in 2018 continues the remarkable trend of the last five years, which reflects an ongoing shift toward renewable power as the driver of global energy transformation.”

According to the World Economic Forum, “the costs of building large-scale solar installations in India fell by 27% in 2018, year-on-year, thanks to a combination of low-priced panel imports from China, abundant land and cheap labour.”

The World Economic Forum also notes that “as prices come down, demand goes up. The expanding global solar sector now accounts for 55% of all new renewable power-generating capacity. Last year, 94 gigawatts of new capacity came online, largely added by Asian countries.”

“China was responsible for 44 gigawatts of all new solar capacity,” it noted, “almost five-times more than India, which followed directly behind. Other rapidly expanding markets include the US, Japan, Australia and Germany.”

Within IRENA’s global database of renewable projects, “over three-quarters of the onshore wind and four-fifths of the utility-scale solar PV project capacity due to be commissioned in 2020 should provide lower-priced electricity than the cheapest new coal-fired, oil or natural gas option.”

Amongst its other findings, IRENA says that:

-New solar and wind installations will increasingly undercut even the operating-only costs of existing coal-fired plants.

-Onshore wind and solar PV power are now, frequently, less expensive than any fossil-fuel option, without financial assistance.

-Cost forecasts for solar PV and onshore wind continue to be revised as new data emerges, with renewables consistently beating earlier expectations.

The IRENA report makes specific mention that as investment into renewables increases and the prices decline, we’re moving toward a future where it will be cheaper to build and operate than existing coal-fired power plants.

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