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Cabinet approves solar power programme

A labourer cleans solar cells placed on a window of a newly constructed solar housing complex in Kolkata in this July 8, 2008 file photo. REUTERS/Parth Sanyal/Files

NEW DELHI (Reuters) - India’s cabinet on Thursday approved its first solar power plan, pledging to boost output from near zero to 20 gigawatts (GW) by 2020 as part of its plan to fight global warming.

“The cabinet gave its approval for launching of the Jawaharlal Nehru national solar mission, Solar India... and has given in principle approval,” Information and Broadcasting Minister Ambika Soni told reporters on Thursday.

The $19 billion plan is aimed to help India close the gap on solar front-runners like China and could increase India’s leverage in international talks for a new U.N. climate pact in Copenhagen next month, one of several measures meant to help cut emissions.

Money would be spent on incentives for production and installation as well as research and development, and the plan offers financial incentives and tax holidays for utilities.

It envisions three phases starting with 1-1.5 GW by 2012 along with steps to drive down production costs of solar panels and spur domestic manufacturing.

The world produces about 14 gigawatts (GW) of solar power, about half of it added last year.

The move could unlock India’s huge renewables potential and benefit companies such as Tata BP Solar, a joint venture between Tata Power and BP plc’s solar unit, BP Solar, and Bharat Heavy Electricals Ltd, a state-run power and engineering equipment firm, and Lanco Infratech.

Reporting by Rajesh Kumar Singh; Editing by Bappa Majumdar