With 30 years of experience behind him, Dr Ashvini Kumar, managing director, Solar Energy Corporation of India (SECI), is an industry veteran. He obtained a Ph.D. in solar energy from IIT Delhi and has been a major contributor to the promotion and development of solar thermal technology. By writing his Ph.D. thesis on solar, which he started in 1978, he was far ahead of his time. For, it was not until 1981 that the Centre for Energy Studies was set up at IIT Delhi. For the next five years, Kumar continued working there as a faculty member.
In 1986, Kumar joined the Ministry of New and Renewable Energy (MNRE), where he worked in different capacities. As a director in the ministry, he worked as the divisional head for various activities, including solar grid power, and research and development coordination. In addition, Kumar worked at the Solar Energy Centre, a technical institution set up by the MNRE, where he was instrumental in establishing solar thermal testing facilities.
Subsequently, he moved back to the ministry and looked after remote village electrification and a solar programme. In 2012, he joined , which had been set up a year earlier under the Companies Act as a not-for-profit company with a solar mandate. Last year, the government decided that it should be treated as a regular company because of the need for equity to finance expansion.
Kumar feels excited at the growth in the solar segment. “For people like us who have been working in solar energy from the time when it was limited, this is a dream come true. It is a very fortunate moment,” he says. Although Kumar enjoyed his time at the MNRE, he says the work at SECI has been particularly satisfying. “The reason is that you are not simply passing orders, you have to make efforts to get results. You conceive a solar plant today, see it coming up in six months, and witness power flowing from it in a year. So that’s the most satisfying part,” he says.
A scientist by nature, Kumar believes that persuasion and discussion work best with people. This gives them space and allows them to share their thoughts. Given work pressures, Kumar is able to take a walk in the mornings but not, as he would like to, in the evenings too. Because the sector is still evolving, there is much work to be done, and a lot of time has to be devoted to it. His family, which includes his wife, son and daughter, has accepted his passion.