India aims for 50% of fuel stations owned by public sector oil companies to be operated by solar power within five years under the government's green energy drive, its oil minister said on Tuesday. Dharmendra Pradhan said India's three state-backed fuel retailers Indian Oil Corp, Hindustan Petroleum Corp and Bharat Petroleum, which operate about 63,150 fuel station across India, are moving to deploy solar panels across their operations.
They have currently installed a combined 270 megawatts (MW) of solar power capacity and will add 60 MW more capacity in the coming year, Pradhan said. With government encouragement, Indian oil and gas companies are turning to investing in green energy such as renewables, biofuels and hydrogen to reduce the country's carbon footprint.
"The oil and gas public sector undertakings are increasingly evaluating new opportunities in the solar and renewable energy space for diversification," Pradhan said at the World Solar Technology Summit of the International Solar Alliance. He did not give any investment figures.
India imports over 80% of its solar cell and module requirements from China, as domestic manufacturers have struggled to compete with cheap Chinese modules. However, Pradhan said companies have expressed interest in setting up new manufacturing capacity in India amounting to 10 GW of solar power equipment.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi wants companies to procure most of their equipment from local industry to boost the Indian economy, which has now been hit by COVID-19. Asia's third-largest economy has set a target to have a renewable energy capacity of 175 GW by 2022. That would include 100 GW of solar capacity, up from around 35 GW currently.
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