Solar panels Kerala house
India is on track to become a global force in the solar energy sector. Image Credit: Reuters

India is on track to become a global force in green hydrogen and challenge China’s dominant role in the solar energy sector, according to the nation’s power minister.

Rapidly rising investments in renewables, including from overseas, are helping to position India as a key future supplier of clean energy technology and as an exporter of low-emissions hydrogen and ammonia, Power and Renewable Energy Minister Raj Kumar Singh said Tuesday in an interview in Sydney.

“We shall emerge as, after China, the biggest manufacturing centre for high-efficiency solar cells and modules,” Singh said on the sidelines of a two-day energy forum and meetings of the Quad group of nations - which also includes the US, Japan and Australia. “We’ll be the major suppliers of green hydrogen, green ammonia for the world.”

India has existing capacity of about 15 gigawatts of solar cell and module manufacturing and the addition of 50 gigawatts is already under way, according to Singh. Foreign investment in renewables is averaging about $9 billion to $11 billion a year, and is “going to go up exponentially,” alongside major developments by domestic entities, he said.

Billionaire Gautam Adani has pledged to spend $70 billion on clean energy assets, including green hydrogen, while Mukesh Ambani’s Reliance Industries Ltd., one of India’s most valuable companies, plans to add production of solar panels, electrolysers for clean hydrogen and rechargeable batteries. French oil giant TotalEnergies SE last month agreed to partner with Adani on hydrogen in India.

“We are the biggest and the most attractive market for renewables in the world,” Singh said in the interview. The government previously offered subsidies for domestic solar panel production and is considering incentives for electrolyzer manufacturing.

India currently accounts for only a fraction of production of solar cells and modules. Both sectors are controlled by China, which manufactured more than two-thirds of modules and 86% of cells in 2021, according to BloombergNEF.

Pressure on India’s supply of coal, which accounts for about 70% of electricity generation, has eased and been aided by a sharp rise in imports, Singh said. The country has boosted purchases of the fuel from overseas despite a surge in international prices, seeking to avoid any repeat of last year’s disruptions to power supply.

“I don’t want to see these imports go on forever,” Singh said. “I think that if you have stocks of coal in your own country - as does the minister of coal - then why import it.”