By Rohit Inani @josefkisdrunk
The Japanese telecoms giant Softbank (SBHGF) has announced plans to invest around $20 billion in solar energy power projects in India, joining forces with the country’s Bharti Enterprises and Taiwan’s Foxconn as the Indian government targets a massive expansion in the country’s solar output.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi plans to raise installed solar capacity from some 3 gigawatts today to 100 gigawatts by 2022, the equivalent of nearly 100 large fossil fuel power plants.
Announcing Softbank’s plans, the company’s chief executive Masayoshi Son said, “India can become probably the largest country for solar energy,” Reuters reports.
“India has two times the sunshine of Japan. The cost of construction of the solar park is half of (what it is in) Japan. Twice the sunshine, half the cost, that means four times the efficiency,” Son said. The Softbank venture is aiming at generating least 20 gigawatts of energy — a goal which, if realized, will be a significant boost to Modi’s plans to develop India’s renewable energy infrastructure, itself a key component of a strategy to reduce poverty around the world’s largest democracy without raising pollution levels.
India is one of the world’s largest carbon polluters; coal dominates the country’s energy mix, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration.
Since coming to power last year, Modi, who was behind the country’s first solar incentives during his time as the chief minister of the western Indian stage of Gujarat, has driven green energy up the national energy agenda with ambitious targets for solar and for wind power. Speaking to TIME earlier this year, he reiterated this desire, saying “there is going to be a heavy focus on using energy that is environment-friendly.”
India’s big push toward clean energy generation comes ahead of the Paris Climate Summit that is scheduled later this year, where leaders from around the world converge under one roof for climate change negotiations aimed at thrashing out a successor to the Kyoto protocol to keep global temperatures in check.