Renewable energy as cheap as fossil fuel in three years, claims IRENA chief

Decentralized solar systems, including mini-grids and home systems, are expected to serve up to 100 million households around the world by 2020
Updated 26 January 2018
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Renewable energy as cheap as fossil fuel in three years, claims IRENA chief

ABU DHABI: With the costs of creating electricity from solar power and wind continuing to fall, electricity from renewable energy will soon be “consistently cheaper” than electricity from fossil fuels, according to the head of the world’s renewable energy agency.
By 2020, most wind and solar power technology now being commercially used will be priced in the same range as fossil fuels, “with most at the lower end or even undercutting fossil fuels,” said Adnan Amin, the director general of the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA).
That is particularly good news for communities in parts of Africa, Asia and other parts of the world that remain unconnected to power grids and without access to modern energy, experts said.
Cheaper prices for improved technology, combined with new financial arrangements to help put it in place, should lead to more unconnected communities getting access to clean power, according to energy access body Power for All.
“The falling cost of solar and an expected decline in (costs of renewable energy) storage are providing a major boost to delivering electricity and related services to communities without access to energy,” William Brent, a spokesman for the organization, told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.
“But it’s not just a question of solar technology, which has achieved full commercial viability and is now cheaper than coal in many countries. Many companies are also pioneering delivery methods using innovative business and financial models, as well as through advances in super-efficient appliances,” he said.
Decentralized solar systems, including mini-grids and home systems, are expected to serve up to 100 million households by the year 2020, he said.
Rwanda, for example, is taking advantage of falling costs to outfit 500,000 homes with solar systems, which should enable almost 2 million people to access clean electricity before the end of 2019, said James Musoni, Rwanda’s minister for infrastructure, including electricity.
“With renewable power alternatives becoming consistently affordable each day, it is up to us to take advantage of this and ensure that we move even closer to achieving universal access to electricity,” the minister said.
The program will cost $15 million — money received as a concessional loan from the Abu Dhabi Fund for Development, he said.
The cost of producing renewable energy has fallen consistently since 2010, with wind and solar panels leading the way — and in some cases falling in price by as much as 73 percent over that period, according to a new report by IRENA.
The biggest price drops have come in the cost of generating utility-scale power from solar panels, which means that such energy can now be added at a much more competitive cost, Amin said.
In 2016 alone, he said, more than 160 gigawatts of renewable energy capacity was added to the world energy mix, an increase of almost 9 percent.
Around 70 percent of that increase came in developing countries, with Asia accounting for 58 percent and Africa 12 percent, he said.
Technological advances, competitive procurement and a large base of experienced, internationally active project developers were the main drivers of the lower costs, Amin said.
The agency said its 2017 review of the industry showed the renewable energy sector supported 9.8 million jobs globally, with solar voltaic systems the largest employer with 3 million jobs worldwide. That was a 12 percent increase from the agency’s 2016 review, it said.


Foreign investors hope India dials back policy shocks after Modi win

Updated 24 May 2019
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Foreign investors hope India dials back policy shocks after Modi win

  • Modi’s pro-business image and India’s youthful population have lured foreign investors
  • After Modi’s win, about a dozen officials of foreign companies in India and their advisers said they hoped he would ease his stance and dilute some of the policies

NEW DELHI: Foreign companies in India have welcomed Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s election victory for the political stability it brings, but now they need to see him soften a protectionist stance adopted in the past year.
Modi’s pro-business image and India’s youthful population have lured foreign investors, with US firms such as Amazon.com , Walmart and Mastercard committing billions of dollars in investments and ramping up hiring.
India is also the biggest market by users for firms such as Facebook Inc, and its subsidiary, WhatsApp.
But from around 2017, critics say, the Hindu nationalist leader took a harder, protectionist line on sectors such as e-commerce and technology, crafting some policies that appeared to aim at whipping up patriotic fervor ahead of elections.

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“I hope he’s now back to wooing businesses,” said Prasanto Roy, a technology policy analyst based in New Delhi, who advises global tech firms.
“Global firms remain deeply concerned about the lack of policy stability or predictability, this has sent a worrying message to global investors.”
India stuck to its policies despite protests and aggressive lobbying by the United States government, US-India trade bodies and companies themselves.
Small hurdles
Modi was set to hold talks on Friday to form a new cabinet after election panel data showed his Bharatiya Janata Party had won 302 of the 542 seats at stake and was leading in one more, up from the 282 it won in 2014.
After Modi’s win, about a dozen officials of foreign companies in India and their advisers told Reuters they hoped he would ease his stance and dilute some of the policies.
Other investors hope the government will avoid sudden policy changes on investment and regulation that catch them off guard and prove very costly, urging instead industry-wide consultation that permits time to prepare.
Protectionism concerns “are small hurdles you have to go through,” however, said Prem Watsa, the chairman of Canadian diversified investment firm Fairfax Financial, which has investments of $5 billion in India.
“There will be more business-friendly policies and more private enterprise coming into India,” he told Reuters in an interview.
Tech, healthcare and beyond
Among the firms looking for more friendly steps are global payments companies that had benefited since 2016 from Modi’s push for electronic payments instead of cash.
Last year, however, firms such as Mastercard and Visa were asked to store more of their data in India, to allow “unfettered supervisory access,” a change that prompted WhatsApp to delay plans for a payments service.
Modi’s government has also drafted a law to clamp similar stringent data norms on the entire sector.
But abrupt changes to rules on foreign investment in e-commerce stoked alarm at firms such as Amazon, which saw India operations disrupted briefly in February, and Walmart, just months after it invested $16 billion in India’s Flipkart.
Policy changes also hurt foreign players in the $5-billion medical device industry, such as Abbott Laboratories, Boston Scientific and Johnson & Johnson, following 2017 price caps on products such as heart stents and knee implants.
Modi’s government said the move aimed to help poor patients and curb profiteering, but the US government and lobby groups said it harmed innovation, profits and investment plans.
“If foreign companies see their future in this country on a long-term basis...they will have to look at the interests of the people,” Ashwani MaHajjan, an official of a nationalist group that pushed for some of the measures, told Reuters.
That view was echoed this week by two policymakers who said government policies will focus on strengthening India’s own companies, while providing foreign players with adequate opportunities for growth.
Such comments worry foreign executives who fear Modi is not about to change his protectionist stance in a hurry, with one offical of a US tech firm saying, “I’d rather be more worried than be optimistic.”