In March 2011, the Great East Japan Earthquake struck Japan, unleashing a tsunami that left some 20,000 people dead or missing. Sendai, the capital city of Miyagi Prefecture and a regional economic hub, was heavily affected by the disaster. About 500,000 residents in the city lost access to water, and the city’s primary wastewater treatment plant was completely submerged by the tsunami. Also, the tsunami damaged 325 kilometers of coastal railway assets and flooded about 100 kilometers of national highway in the Tohoku region, leading to the immediate closure of inland transport access to the devastated towns in need of assistance.
Four years later, while the recovery effort from the earthquake and tsunami was still underway, a private consortium signed a 30-year concession to operate Sendai Airport, making it the first state-owned airport in Japan operated by the private sector. This success was welcomed by policymakers and public-private partnership (PPP) practitioners with surprise—how could it be possible for a private operator to make a long-term investment decision in such a disaster-prone region?
Are we harnessing the power of the sun? With the success of rooftop solar and other initiatives, we’re beginning to head in the right direction.
Solar success has come from unexpected quarters. For example, Germany is probably not the first country that comes to mind when you think of sunshine, but we can follow Germany’s lead. It’s the world’s biggest small-scale photo-voltaic user with an installed capacity of 32 gigawatts, and 60 percent of capacity is from solar panels that are installed on people's roofs.
Germany also launched a 100,000 rooftops program, which provided concessional, 10-year loans along with attractive feed-in tariffs to further incentivize households to participate. This was soon after the success of its pilot 1,000 rooftops program, which created the right incentives and targets were achieved a year ahead of schedule – in 2003.
Germany, Japan and the U.S. state of California are fulfilling their strong solar power potential, and we could all learn from their examples – especially nations that haven’t yet explored the proven promise of solar.
Statistics like these convince me that there is so much more we can and must do. I’m heartened that progress in India has been steady, with successes that prove the country is ready for more.