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14th February 2024

Dinesh Dhamija: Sunny Side Up

Dinesh Dhamija


Ten million Indian households stand to benefit from a new solar power project, announced this week.

‘PM Surya Ghar: Muft Bijli Yojana’ – which translates as ‘The PM’s Sun House: Free Electricity Scheme’ – will offer 300 units of electricity per month to households who install solar panels on their rooftops.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi has pledged Rs 750 billion ($9 billion) to fund the plan, with subsidies going directly to people’s bank accounts. A National Online Portal will administer the scheme, as part of a drive to switch India from hydrocarbons to renewable power.

Besides the environmental benefits, this move promises to reduce household power bills, increase their income and generate employment. These are all laudable ambitions and very much in line with Modi’s thinking over many years. He was an early pioneer of solar investment when Chief Minister in Gujarat, attracted millions of dollars to new facilities.

As Prime Minister, he has continued to push for businesses and individuals to opt for solar energy where possible, with novel developments including lakes covered with solar panels, taking advantage of natural cooling properties, and sports stadiums powered by panels on their exteriors. The other great motivator for solar energy is security: both in supply and in geopolitical terms. While India imports 70% of its energy needs, the more that the country can be self-reliant, the better.

As a leader of the Global South movement, India’s move towards energy independence is a great example. Indeed, as one of the hottest and sunniest countries in the world, it could eventually become an exporter of solar energy, rather than an importer of hydrocarbons. In the medium term, the government has set a target of 500GW of energy generation to come from non-carbon sources, including 450GW from wind and solar, by 2030. Just as the country is massively upgrading its roads, rail, ports and airports, a similar effort is underway to boost its energy infrastructure.

I would argue that this is just as important, if not more so. You can’t grow an economy if you’re lacking power. And there remain plenty of regions of India where power cuts are a regular part of life. As India’s solar energy proponents might say: “the future’s sunny”.


Dinesh Dhamija is a solar energy entrepreneur, with a major project in Romania. He founded, built and sold online travel agency, before serving as a Member of the European Parliament. Dinesh’s latest book, The Indian Century, has just been published.


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