In October of 2014, Prime Minister Narendra Modi instructed the Ministry of New and Renewable Energy (MNRE) to come up with an action plan to build renewable power capacity up to 200 Gigawatts by the year 2022.
The previous target of 20 GW for Solar power projects and installations was raised to 100 GW as a result. To put these numbers in perspective, the cumulative electricity generation capacity in India is less than 250 GW and the installed solar capacity is less than 3 GW.
Meeting the 100 GW solar power target alone is estimated to require an investment of Rs 7,70,00 crore (or $125 billion) in the next seven years. In February, MNRE and IREDA conducted a three-day event, RE-Invest India, to get foreign investors and project developers to commit to this target.
Henri Winand runs a fuel-cell company. Fuel cells run on hydrogen to produce energy. So why has Intelligent Energy, Winand’s firm, just agreed a deal to manage some 16,000 diesel-powered mobile network towers in India?
One reason is that the deal will bring in an estimated £1 billion ($1.5 billion) in revenue for the company over the next decade. For a business that posted a £48-million loss on revenue of £13.6 million for the last full year, the income certainly helps. But the larger reason is that Winand plans, over time, to replace the diesel generators that power rural mobile towers in India with fuel cells. Winand can become his own best customer.
Winand’s plan might just work. Intelligent Energy has been in India since 2009, and already manages 10,000 of the country’s mobile towers, many of which are off-grid for eight hours a day. As the diesel generators that keep them running the rest of the time begin to mature, Winand has started replacing the majority of them with fuel cells. Speaking with Quartz before news of the new deal, Winand characterized the tower agreement with gleeful confidence: “We have eight-year visibility,” he said, referring to the minimum length of the contract. “It’s like a pension fund.”