India appoints ex-nuclear chief as new boss for Solar Mission

India’s high profile Solar Mission initiative took a major step forward last week after Prime Minister Manmohan Singh announced that he has appointed Anil Kakodkar, former head of the country’s nuclear programme, as the new chair of the recently-launched Solar Energy Corporation of India (SECI).

The SECI has been formed to oversee the government’s long-promised Solar Mission, which aims to deliver 20GW of installed solar capacity by 2020 at an estimated cost of up to $20bn.

The new company has been awarded a budget of around R2,600 crore ($50m) and has been tasked with accelerating the deployment of solar power projects after government figures showed that only 400 MW of new capacity was deployed last year, well short of initial targets of over 1 GW.

The scheme was launched back in 2009 and despite praise for its ambition has thus far failed to attract the billions of dollars in foreign capital deemed essential to its success.

The appointment of Kakodkar is likely to prove controversial given his tight links to the nuclear industry with the local India Today newspaper describing the Prime Minister’s decision as a "bizarre move that smacks of unfair public policy making".