Modi is known to enjoy talking about the world-first canal project to the presidents and prime ministers he meets around the world and has backed a national expansion. Even using just 10% of the canals in Gujarat would give 2,200MW of solar power. Along with millions of solar water pumps, Goyal says this pushing of power into the countryside will lift the income of poor farmers and increase food security by extending growing seasons.
Solar power can also reach remote villages faster and cheaper than sending pylons striding across the land, says Pranav Mehta, chair of the National Solar Energy Federation of India. “The country needs more decentralised power, like rooftop solar, to reach the large parts of the country that the grid has not reached.”
India’s booming cities are another huge challenge, with many struggling with blackouts, particularly when temperatures soar and air conditioning is ramped up. Again, Modi’s 13-year tenure in Gujarat is providing the solar template. In September, it was announced that rooftop solar power projects in the state capital, Gandhinagar, will be replicated in Punjab and Delhi, where a storm at the end of May plunged its fragile grid into rolling blackouts for a week.