India’s Ministry of New and Renewable Energy Sources (MNRE) is working on a master plan for establishing 60 “solar cities.” The MNRE says the plan will help reduce fossil fuel use by 10% by 2018.

The objective of the program is to promote renewable energy in urban areas and enable local governments to use public-private partnerships to meet sustainable energy challenges at the municipal level, explains Arun Tripathi, MNRE director.

“This is the first time a plan is being structured in a consolidated manner,” Tripathi says.

Currently, 45 cities have been given the green light, and a consultant will be selected for the master plan. The investment is estimated to be approximately $220 million per city “to enable visible renewable energy impact,” says Tripathi. A total of 26 cities are being fitted with renewable systems. These include solar water heating, biogas and waste treatment. “If the scheme goes well, by 2012, 35 to 40 cities will have completed their master plans,” Tripathi says.

Of the 60 cities, 10 will be developed as pilots, with MNRE putting up a share of the financial support for installation of renewable energy and energy conservation projects. The civic authority, according to the plan, will be required to match MNRE funds, with the rest being provided by the user. “We are trying to make it mandatory through the civic body building laws to make new buildings above 500 square meters use the ‘Griha,’” an energy and environmental certification introduced recently by India’s Energy and Resources Institute, Tripathi says. The measure is designed to promote solar water heaters in commercial and residential structures, says Tripathi.