Plans are a boost for Prime Minister Modi's efforts to meet ambitious renewable targets
NEW DELHI (Reuters) - U.S.-based SunEdison and First Solar on Sunday committed to build more than 20,000 megawatts of clean energy capacity in India by 2022, a boost for Prime Minister Narendra Modi's efforts to meet ambitious renewable targets.
The companies announced the plans at the beginning of India's first major renewable energy conference, where Modi's government is trying to drum up support from investors to reach a target of 100,000 megawatts of solar power by 2022, a 33-fold rise from today's level.
SunEdison said it would build 15,200 MW of solar and wind power capacity by 2022, while First Solar made a commitment to develop 5,000 MW of solar by 2019.
The commitments follow recent pledges to launch new solar plants by domestic companies Adani Enterprises and Essel Group.
"India has a critical need to add capacity to its grid as it continues to experience strong economic growth and growing demand for energy," said Pashupathy Gopalan, president of SunEdison Asia-Pacific.
Modi has made renewable energy a priority for his nine-month old government, as he looks to capitalize on the falling cost of solar power - expected to reach parity with conventional energy by 2017 - and address India's chronic power shortages.
On Sunday, he told an audience at the conference in New Delhi that renewable energy was an "article of faith" for him.
India wants to raise the of its energy mix from renewables to 15 percent in 10 to 12 years from 6 percent now, Power Minister Piyush Goyal told the conference.
Analysts have said Modi's targets will be difficult to reach given the poor financial position of electricity distribution companies that would buy solar energy, and the slow pace at which land for plants is made available.
Total installed photovoltaic solar capacity globally stood at 135,000 MW at the end of 2013, according to First Solar.
India's largest lender, the State Bank of India, said it would bankroll 15,000 MW of solar power by 2020.
The SBI did not disclose the size of the financing package but 1,000 MW of solar typically costs about $1 billion.
(Reporting by Krishna N. Das; Writing by Tommy Wilkes; Editing by Robert Birsel)
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