India has decided to exempt solar energy projects from environment clearance

To push the green technologies, the environment ministry has decided to exempt solar power projects from environment clearance and fast track clearance process of green building projects. A decision to this effect was announced this week through two different circulars and comes in wake of the Plan

Panel committee’s suggestion to give incentives to industry including faster clearances to promote green technologies. "Solar photovoltaic power projects are not covered under the Environment Impact Assessment notification of 2006 and therefore, environment clearance is not required," the circular issued by SK Aggarwal, director in the ministry said, in response to specific query from ministry of Renewable Energy.

The Renewable Energy ministry had launched an ambitious National Solar Mission aimed at generating 1,000 MW of solar power by 2013, 20,000 MW by 2022 and comparable generation with thermal by 2030 with Concentrating Solar Power and photovoltaic.

Top global companies and NGOs such as Clinton Foundation are setting up country’s biggest solar photovoltaic parks in Gujarat and Rajasthan of up to 100 MW. "Proposals are at different stages of clearance for solar power generation in different parts of the country," a renewable energy ministry official said.

But, the ambitious plan may falter in achieving its targets unless the clearance process is fastened. Normally, it takes six months to over a year to get environment clearance for the projects. But, the environment ministry has taken a positive step and exempted solar power from environment clearance. However, the projects coming up in forest areas will have to apply for forest clearance from the environment ministry.

India, Asia’s third-largest energy consumer, may be able to produce electricity from the sun as cheaply as from coal and other fossil fuel-based power plants by 2017, according to KPMG LLP. India may install three times as much solar capacity as the government intends by 2022 if sun-powered electricity is able to match the cost of conventional power, a point referred to as grid parity, said KPMG’s Executive Director Santosh Kamath, lead author of a solar report to be released this week.

The green buildings have not been so lucky. The ministry has decided that environment clearance to all green building projects meeting government or the private sector ratings will be fast tracked. The renewable energy ministry has GRIHA rating whereas CII has LEED rating for promoting green buildings.