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Solar Energy for the Billions

In mid-October, Siemenpuu co-hosted a delegation of six experts in solar and other renewable energy from India. They had been invited to Finland by Siemenpuu and International Solar Innovations Council (InSIC) because of their commitment and efforts in making clean energy available also for the poor.

On the 17th of October in the Visitor’s Center of the Finnish Parliament, a high-level seminar was held with a title Solar Energy for the Billions. It addressed the question: could our global future be powered by the sun? How could cooperation between India and Finland bring affordable solar energy to the billions of poorest people?

Ms. Vani Rao, the Ambassador of India to Finland, opened the event by informing how India is committed to the Paris agreement. India is very aware of the negative impacts of climate change especially among the poor and has made remarkable efforts in promoting solar power, for example. Moreover, India is cooperating globally and set up with France the International Solar Alliance. India is keen to bring clean energy to the people who don’t have access to it yet, at home and internationally.

Mr. Kimmo Tiilikainen, the Finnish Minister for Environment, emphasized that co-operation in environmental questions between India and Finland is strong. He reminded that also in Finland solar electricity has increased fast though still modest in the overall energy supply. He said that more innovations and investments will be seen in the future. “When we think about solar energy globally, it has huge potential”, said Tiilikainen. Cost of solar power has gone down and producing solar energy is an opportunity especially in the off-grid areas. He concluded by saying that we have to make huge changes to keep global warming in 1.5 decrees, and solar power is one of the technologies that will play a role.

Audience sitting and listening man speaking in a meeting hall.
Minister Kimmo Tiilikainen speaking in the Solar Energy for the Billions event (Photo: Timo Kuronen/ Siemenpuu)

Ms. Satu Hassi, the member of Finnish Parliament and Chairperson of the environment committee, discussed the role of European Union in promoting clean energy policies, both improved efficiency and renewable supply. She reminded that the transition to sustainable energy was stressed also in the recent IPCC report. EU has several tools to promote the transition, such as the emission quotas and binding targets for renewable energy. Germany is a positive example of how political will can make use of renewable energies grow. Their target to have 100 000 solar panels on roofs made the prices of solar systems go down in unpredictable speed with an influence on global markets.

Professor S. P. Gon Chaudhuri from the NB Institute for Rural Technologies introduced several programmes that the government of India has undertaken to provide clean energy. India is famous for its very ambitions solar power programme where companies bid for production and the provider of lowest price wins the contract. He also introduced the Technical Advancement for Rural Areas that bring appropriate technologies for rural use through skilled institutions that interact closely with ordinary people. Through this programme innovations such as the micro-solar dome, solar water purifier and solar heater have been developed and disseminated.

Dr. Sunil Agarwal from the Ministry of Science and Technology added by explaining the approach of the government to advance also appropriate technologies. The ministry has clean energy as one of its high priorities and is working together with top scientist and people to find best sollutions.

In the discussion, members of parliament Hanna Sarkkinen, Riitta Myller and Timo Harakka gave their feedback. Hanna Sarkkinen connected the renewable energy with Finnish development policy and said much more should be done in this regard. Riitta Myller emphasized the employment aspect of the energy transition and saw much potential in renewable energy. Timo Harakka agreed with the big potential of solar energy and encouraged Finland to join the movement. Energy expert Esa Erävalo highlighted the role of research and development and Tiina Ahva the potential of decentralization and localization through renewable energy.

Read also Risto Isomäki’s blog on remarkable energy innovations and other discussions during the Indian solar experts’ visit to Finland