India has a bright future in solar energy.
Its renewable energy market is currently valued at $17 billion dollars, and is growing at an annual rate of 15 percent. And remarkably, there is potential for even bigger things.
According to one estimate, to keep economic growth at current levels, India will need to add 150 gigawatts of capacity over the next five years. Clearly, there is both a market and a need for clean energy in India. And, U.S. companies have the technology and products to meet these needs and help spur economic development.
It’s a natural partnership.
That’s why, yesterday, during my keynote speech at SOLARCON India 2011, I urged all parties to consider new partnerships with each other so that we can build a clean future together.
Hosted in the city of Hyderabad, the trade event brought together a wide-range of business leaders, academics and government officials to exchange ideas about the clean energy sector. Although estimates about the attendance are unavailable at this time, just last year, it drew over 4,000 people from over 30 countries.
This year, there was incredible energy and excitement in the air. For U.S. firms, India’s solar market represents a huge opportunity to get involved in a booming sector in a growing market, resulting in thousands, if not millions, of jobs for people in both countries.
There is a tendency for people to think of the solar market as just a bunch of panels on roofs. But, it’s much more; there is a whole supply chain of opportunity behind each product. I’m talking about:
- engineers and manufacturers developing more efficient solar cells and modules;
- mechanics building new electricity grids that can monitor and distribute solar energy more effectively; and
- workers and installation professionals building new solar energy power plants.
We at the Department of Commerce recognize this incredible potential and have led several clean energy trade missions to India in recent years.
And, other agencies are doing great work; the U.S. Export-Important Bank and the Overseas Private Investment Corporation have invested millions in clean energy projects across India.
But, we can do more, especially considering that the Indian Government’s National Solar Mission has a $19 billion dollar plan to produce 20 gigawatts of solar power by 2022. Unfortunately, there are obstacles blocking U.S. companies from seizing these opportunities—namely Local Content Requirements (LCR).
LCR’s in India restrict imports from overseas clean tech companies, including those in the United States. Basically, there isn’t a level-playing field for U.S. businesses and other foreign firms to compete on.
In my speech at SOLARCON, I told the audience that “we must fight the urge to link our promotion of clean energy to policies that protect local industries with unfair practices. . . local content requirements keep cutting-edge technology out of the hands of project developers—limiting the deployment.”
While this obviously hurts U.S. businesses, it also negatively impacts India; with the path it appears to be following, India is going to miss out on some innovative products and hinder its own economic development.
Nobody should be scared of free and fair trade. The U.S. has open markets, and we’re better off for it; it encourages competition, drives innovation and reduces costs for customers.
Products should be selected based on quality and price, and I urged India’s government officials to reconsider their policy.
President Obama has said that the United States and India will be one of the defining relationships of the 21st century.
Now, it’s up to both sides to define it. To me, this means expanding opportunity and cooperation for both our peoples.
By working closer together to build the clean energy industry—creating jobs for people, profits for businesses and a healthier planet for all—we will take a giant leap towards this goal.