New government-backed company tasked with accelerating roll out of giant solar power projects, photovoltaic solar energy and concentrating solar thermal power.

India’s high profile Solar Mission initiative took a major step forward last week after Prime Minister Manmohan Singh announced that he has appointed Anil Kakodkar, former head of the country’s nuclear programme, as the new chair of the recently-launched Solar Energy Corporation of India (SECI).

The SECI has been formed to oversee the government’s long-promised Solar Mission, which aims to deliver 20GW of installed solar capacity by 2020 at an estimated cost of up to $20bn.

The new company has been awarded a budget of around R2,600 crore ($50m) and has been tasked with accelerating the deployment of solar projects after government figures showed that only 400MW of new capacity was deployed last year, well short of initial targets of over 1GW.

The scheme was launched back in 2009 and despite praise for its ambition has thus far failed to attract the billions of dollars in foreign capital deemed essential to its success.

The appointment of Kakodkar is likely to prove controversial given his tight links to the nuclear industry with the local India Today newspaper describing the Prime Minister’s decision as a "bizarre move that smacks of unfair public policy making".

In related news, the influential Times of India last week ran a high profile editorial describing climate change as the "greatest problem facing India", and urging governments and businesses to step up efforts to tackle the problem through new technology, reduced consumption and international co-operation.

The paper warns India could face severe impacts as a result of climate change, warning that "Indians have scarcely understood the magnitude of the problem".

"With global warming, sea levels will rise, submerging habitations, small and big," the paper states. "Fertile areas will become deserts. Rivers and underground water will dry up. Rainfall patterns will change and glaciers will melt, at first causing floods, later causing rivers to die. The rising heat and lack of water will cause an agricultural catastrophe.

"People will be displaced in search of safety, cooler climes, water, better soil, food, and security from others. Social amenities will deteriorate, disease will spread, frictions will bubble to the surface and our political order could collapse altogether. Since the problem of global warming will be as acute if not worse in Bangladesh and Pakistan, our crisis will be even greater than we think. Desperate people will cross the border into India in search of sanctuary."

The editorial follows last month’s annual UN climate summit in Durban where the Indian government was accused by some countries of attempting to water down the final deal demanding that all nations agree a new legal treaty for curbing emissions by 2015.

In other news, Reuters has reported that the Chinese government is considering a major re-organisation that would result in the creation of a new energy "super-ministry".

Citing independent sources, the news agency said that the department could be created from next year in an attempt to bring together responsibilities for energy management and investment currently held by a range of different authorities.