Speed Reads

Here comes the sun

Narendra Modi wants to use solar energy to bring electricity to every home in India

CC by: Narendra Modi

Newly elected Prime Minister-designate Narendra Modi is a hugely controversial figure, and how he will govern India — a country currently in an economic funk — remains unknown. Critics worry that the Hindu nationalist Modi may sow seeds of division, and stoke up religious conflict. Yet Modi largely ran his campaign on reviving the country's economy — and he does have a few big economic ideas up his sleeve.

As chief minister of Gujarat, Modi pioneered India's first incentives for large-scale solar power in 2009. And now his government plans to harness solar power to enable every home in India to run at least one light bulb by 2019. More than 400 million people in India still lack electricity. That's more than the entire population of the U.S. and Canada.

"We look upon solar as having the potential to completely transform the way we look at the energy space," Narendra Taneja, convener of the energy division of Modi's Bharitiya Janata Party, told Bloomberg.

He's probably right. Solar can be totally decentralized, meaning that unconnected homes can have access to power without India having to immediately roll out expensive centralized infrastructure like power lines, substations, and coal-fired power stations — previously a stumbling block to bringing electricity to the poorest in the third world.

If successful, this kind of program could provide a clean, decentralized energy template for sub-Saharan Africa, where upwards of 580 million people lack electricity.