Last week, India held RE-Invest 2015, the country's first major renewable energy conference, as it kicks off a dramatic transformation to solar and wind.

At the event, Prime Minister Narendra Modi declared the "Megawatts to Gigawatts" challenge to meet his goal of 100 gigawatts (GW) of solar and 60 GW wind in just eight years — from 33 GW today. Energy Minister Piyush Goyal went even further, saying they could well exceed even that outsized goal. "The government stands committed to making renewable energy India's gift to the world," he told the audience.

To give you an idea of how much solar that is, it equals all the capacity worldwide as of 2012. China's target is 70 GW by 2017 — triple its current capacity.


In recent months, Modi began calling on investors to ante up $100 billion to meet his goals. Skeptics doubted there would be that much interest, but close to 300 companies have already pledged double that amount — $200 billion for 266 GW-worth of solar and wind farms in the next five years. Even if only half comes through, the government will meet its target, says Goyal.

To get there, India has to install 10 GW of solar a year, plus 5 GW of rooftop solar — less than China has been installing. And solar projects are quick to build — with a 100 MW plant taking about 90 days, the goal can be surpassed by 25 developers working simultaneously in the sunniest Indian states.

The size of some solar projects is unprecedented: contracts are signed for a 6 GW solar plant in the state of Rajasthan, which would equal all of its conventional power-generating capability. The developer, Reliance Energy, could be the first major fossil fuel company to switch to clean energy.

And Adani Enterprises has signed a deal to build an even bigger 10 GW solar plant there. The company will also construct a solar manufacturing plant to supply the operation.

Big U.S. developers are also in India. SunEdison pledges to build 15.2 GW of wind and solar by 2022 and is investing $4 billion in the largest solar factory in the country, which can produce 7.5 GW a year and employ about 20,000 people. First Solar pledges to build 5 GW of solar by 2019.

"Imagine the signal it would send to the world if India were able to achieve its goal of bringing electricity to every household that lacks it, largely using clean solar power — at a fraction of the cost of the conventional grid," said former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg (I) during his keynote at the conference.

"It would be a success story told — and copied — around the world."

"The good news is, as Prime Minister Modi is showing, confronting climate change goes hand-in-hand with smart economic growth," said Bloomberg, pointing to New York's success: cutting carbon emissions 19 percent in six years while also making the air cleaner than in more than 50 years, and leading on job creation. "India can do the same for its citizens," he added.

Goyal said, "We will work together to make India renewable energy capital of the world."

What does all of this show? We can turn this hulking fossil-fuel-based society around. What's required is the vision, the will and the leadership.

Fried, Ph.D., is CEO of, known for its daily green business news and national green jobs service since 1996. (Read a article, "Modi's Renewable Energy Revolution for India," here.) She also selects the constituents for NASDAQ's Green Economy Index.