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  • Solar energy subsidy: After attempts for amicable solution fail, India drags US to WTO dispute settlement body

     Solar energy subsidy: After attempts for amicable solution fail, India drags US to WTO dispute settlement body

    India has approached the dispute settlement body (DSB) of the World Trade Organization (WTO), accusing the US of offering “trade-distorting” subsidies in the renewable energy sector, as consultations between the two parties for an amicable resolution failed to yield results. In September last year, India moved the WTO, seeking consultations with the US on the “illegal” solar subsidy programmes prevalent in eight states there. However, with the US displaying less-than-desired commitments in addressing its concern, India has now conveyed to the WTO that its panel must adjudicate on the matter, sources told FE.

    The move marks a departure from the past (when India’s international trade policy was more defensive than offensive) and reflects the country’s greater willingness to invoke the WTO’s dispute settlement process to expeditiously settle disputes with trading partners. India’s decision is also shaped by growing instances of its trading partners approaching the multilateral dispute resolution framework and achieving the outcome they want.

    Ironically, the US had won a ruling against India at the WTO in February last year on, what trade analysts say, far less severe charges that the world’s largest economy now stands accused of.

    The US had successfully challenged the domestic content requirement under India’s solar programme, arguing that such a stipulation violated global trading rules by unfavourably discriminating against imported solar cells and modules. The move irked India and prompted it to point at violations of WTO provisions by the US itself in the latter’s own renewable energy sector.

    India has complained to the WTO that the states of Washington, California, Montana, Massachusetts, Connecticut, Michigan, Delaware and Minnesota support their renewable energy sector with massive illegal subsidies and local content requirements (which makes its obligatory to buy domestic goods instead of imports). “These subsidies (provided by the US) are blatantly illegal, as they fly in the face of WTO obligations,” said Abhijit Das, head of the Centre for WTO Studies at the Indian Institute of Foreign Trade.

    India believes such programmes at the sub-federal level of the US are inconsistent with the WTO provisions–particularly with respect to the obligation under the General Agreement on Tariff and Trade, 1994, the Agreement on Subsidies and Countervailing Measures and/or the Trade-Related Investment Measures agreement. According to the WTO procedures, once a party seeks adjudication by the DSB, the multilateral body has to set up a panel—a formality that is usually opposed by the accused party. However, if the aggrieved party (India, in this case) still insists on the formation of the panel, the accused party (the US) can’t block it. Once the panel is “composed”, proceedings go on for some 6-8 months before a verdict is pronounced.

    The latest move by India’s suggests despite political bonhomie in recent years, the world’s largest and the oldest democracies have failed to iron out differences on the trade front and have, in fact, indulged in greater trade battles than ever. The US in 2015 won another ruling against India’s ban on the import of various agriculture products including poultry meat and eggs from the US. For its part, India has also approached the WTO against the US decision, in December 2015, to drastically hike the H-1B and L-1 visa charges, which is estimated to quadruple the Indian information technology industry’s annual visa costs to $400 million. India is also closely monitoring further tightening of visa policies by the Donald Trump administration. The US is India’s second-largest trading partner, with a bilateral goods trade of around $62 billion (in 2015-16).


  • India’s Madhya Pradesh auctions nation’s lowest-priced solar

    India’s Madhya Pradesh auctions nation’s lowest-priced solar

    An auction in the Indian state of Madhya Pradesh has today set a new record low for solar power in the country.

    The Rewa ultra-mega solar park, a 750 MW joint venture between Solar Energy Corp of India (SECI) and Madhya Pradesh Urja Vikas Ltd., has attracted bids of INR 3.59/kWh ($0.053/kWh) – the lowest ever recorded in India.

    Bidding rules outlined by the developers deemed that the lowest tariff accepted would serve as a base price for the reverse auction. The developers that submitted the highest proposed tariff would be excluded from the e-auction. This unique set of rules has helped to drive the cost below the previous Indian record-low of INR 4.34/kWh, set last year in Rajasthan.

    The Rewa solar capacity is being doled out in three, 250 MW units – the first of which is set at a price of INR 3.59/kWh, rising to INR 3.61/kWh for the second unit, and INR 3.26/kWh for the third.

    There were 20 developer proposals submitted in the e-auction, and this number was whittled down to 18 following the exclusion of Shapporji Pallonji and Torrent Power – both of who offered the two highest prices.

    “The auction will begin at the country’s lowest solar power rate and it is likely to go further down,” said India’s principal secretary of new and renewable energy, Manu Shrivastav. The completed Rewa solar park will not only be India’s cheapest such installation, but its largest too, usurping Tamil Nadu’s 648 MW solar farm.

    A portion of the energy produced onsite at the 750 MW, 1,500 hectare plot will be purchased by Delhi Metro Rail, with Madhya Pradesh utilities committed to buying the rest of the power produced.


  • India looking at solar power storage technology from Belgium

    India looking at solar power storage technology from Belgium

    NEW DELHI: India is looking at an innovative Belgian solar storage technology that promises to offer consumers a source of quality power as a green and reliable alternative to flickering supply from battery storage or diesel generators in distant or off-grid locations.

    NISE (National Institute of Solar Energy), an autonomous entity under the new and renewable energy ministry, and Tiger Power of Belgium, on Tuesday inked a MoU for validation of the technology that combines solar panels, normal lead-acid battery and hydrogen fuel cells to produce steady power.

    The MoU was signed as part of the ongoing visit of Belgian deputy PM Alexander De Croo, who is also the minister for development cooperation, digital agenda and telecom programmes. Croo is here ahead of King Philippe’s expected state visit later this year.

    Simply put, the package is essentially a solar-battery storage module with a hydrogen fuel cell in tandem. The solar panels charge the battery during daytime for power in the night. But in case the battery becomes weak or fails in the absence of sun, an inbuilt electronic brain switches on the fuel cell to maintain power supply.

    “The validation programme comes under the overall co-operation agreement between the two countries, covering a wide range of areas. The Belgian offering can have usage in off-grid solutions. It adds reliability and quality of power from a solar-storage package. Defence could be one area where the technology may be useful as it comes in foldable modules and can be set up in 30 minutes,” a government official familiar with the development told TOI.

    He admitted that costs may not suit rural households but hoped things can improve with scale and domestic manufacturing. “We will look into this area once the validation is done. But at this point, there is potential among premium consumers who want steady and reliable power using solar modules and defence establishments in off-grid locations who need quality power for their equipment,” the official said.


  • India’s solar power capacity crosses 9 GW

    India’s solar power capacity crosses 9 GW

    Country’s solar power generation capacity stood at over 9 GW as on December 31, 2016 with Tamil Nadu having the largest output capability followed by Rajasthan and Gujarat, Parliament was informed on Monday. Total power generation capacity was 9,012 MW as on December 31, 2016. Tamil Nadu led the chart followed by Rajasthan and Gujarat, Power Minister Piyush Goyal informed the Rajya Sabha.
    “As on December 31, 2016, Gujarat (1.16 GW), Rajasthan (1.32 GW), and Tamil Nadu (1.6 GW) have crossed 1 GW solar installations…, while Andhra Pradesh (0.98 GW), Telangana (0.97 GW) and Madhya Pradesh (0.84 GW) are close to these states,” he said in written statement. The minister said solar power development varies from state to state depending on solar irradiance, availability of conducive state policy for the sector, availability of land, cost of financing and business environment such as willingness of DISCOMS to purchase the solar power, power evacuation infrastructure, etc.
    On falling solar tariff, the minster stated in another statement to the Rajya Sabha that the tariff determined by the Central Electricity Regulatory Commission (CERC) in case of solar photovoltaic projects is Rs 5.68 per kWh and Rs 5.09 per kWh without and with accelerated depreciation benefit, respectively. He further said that in Rajasthan, the tariff after bidding came to Rs 4.34 per kWh.
    The government is promoting solar energy through fiscal and promotional incentives such as capital and/or interest subsidy, tax holiday on the earnings for 10 years, generation-based incentive, accelerated depreciation, viability gap funding (VGF), financing solar rooftop systems as part of home loan, concessional excise and custom duties, preferential tariff for power generation from renewables, and foreign investment up to 100 per cent under the automatic route, etc.
    This apart, the government has been supporting solar manufacturing by way of various mechanisms such as Modified Special Incentive Package Scheme (M-SIPS) of the Ministry of Electronics & Information Technology (MeitY), the minister said.


  • MMRC to harness solar energy for Metro 3 project

    MMRC to harness solar energy for Metro 3 project

    AS PART of its green initiatives, the Mumbai Metro Rail Corporation (MMRC) plans to use solar energy to power part of the under-construction Metro 3. It plans to use solar energy at the Aarey car depot and at sub-stations along the Colaba-Bandra-SEEPZ line.
    The sub-stations themselves require power supply for the functioning of utilities like lighting and air-conditioning. The 33.5-km Metro line will have three receiving substations – at Science Museum, Dharavi and Aarey Colony. Solar panels will be installed on their rooftops to provide power supply for utilities, making the substations self-reliant for basic power supply needs.
    Similarly, the car depot and workshop at Aarey will also have solar panels.
    “Since Metro 3 is completely underground, it was a challenge to use solar energy as there is very little area exposed to the sun. But we overcame that challenge and decided to use this environment-friendly measure as much as possible,” said a senior MMRC official.
    MMRC will take the first step on this project by installing solar panels on the rooftop of its office building in BKC to take care of the lighting needs. It will also have the provision of net metering, which allows MMRC to sell the surplus power generated back to the grid and save on electricity bill.
    “We have already awarded work for the rooftop solar panels for our office building and it will be commissioned by March 31. The designs have already been approved and we will soon procure the equipment,” added the official.
    MMRC hopes to generate up to 1.5 MW power through its solar initiatives. It is also looking at options to harness solar energy for the running of trains.


  • Energy Budget 2017-18: Solar power to feed 7,000 railway stations says FM Arun Jaitley

    Energy Budget 2017-18: Solar power to feed 7,000 railway stations says FM Arun Jaitley

    New Delhi, Feb 1: Announcing the Union Budget for the 2017-18, Finance Minister Arun Jaitley said that around 7,000 railway stations will be fed using solar power and work has already began in 300 stations in that respect.

    The project is expected to feed at least 7,000 stations with solar power in the medium term. Jaitley also said that regarding this work will be taken up for 2000 stations as part of the government’s 1000 megawatt solar mission.

    Addressing the House members, the FM said, ” It is proposed to feed at least 7,000 stations with solar power in the medium term. A beginning has already been made in 300 stations.”

    Reportedly, earlier the Indian railways said that it has finalised a solar energy harnessing policy. As per this policy, solar energy will be harnessed on rooftops of railway premises. The project also involved setting up solar power plants through developer mode along with a long term Power Purchase Agreement (PPA) by the railways.

    Furthermore, to reduce dependence on fossil fuels, it has been announced that the government intends to expand sourcing of solar power as an important part of the Solar Mission of the Indian Railways.

    The Government said that it believes that the primary consequence of using electricity generated by using solar panels will automatically and proportionately reduce the dependence on fossil fuels. Noteworthy that, fossil fuels are non-renewable source of energy and hence it is indeed necessary to keep them preserved as part of the sustainable development model.

    In that sense, the development proposed by the government in setting up the solar energy sources in railways is a step ahead towards decreasing the dependence on fossil fuels, while at the same time switching to a more sustainable mode of energy.


  • India to power major ports with renewable energy

    India’s Ministry of Shipping has decided to use renewable energy sources to power 12 of the country's major ports.
    The directive was initiated under the government’s Green Port Initiative, and will see 91.50MW solar energy systems installed at the 12 locations.
    Plans also include the establishment of 45MW of wind energy capacity at two additional major ports, located in Kandla, Gujarat and V. O. Chidambaranar, Tamil Nadu. 6MW of the 45MW wind energy capacity has already been commissioned by Kandla Port.
    The ministry says ports have already started the process of setting up renewable energy projects via an investment of Rs7bn ($104m), which includes Rs4bn ($60m) for solar and Rs2bn ($43m) for wind energy initiatives.
    The Ministry of Shipping said in a statement: “Once completed, these renewable energy projects will help in the reduction of carbon dioxide emission by 136,500t annually.
    "These projects will help to reduce cost of power purchased by utilisation of renewable energy for power generation, resulting in estimated saving of Rs750m ($11m) annually."
    “These projects will also help to reduce cost of power purchased by utilisation of renewable energy for power generation, resulting in estimated saving of Rs750m ($11m) annually when fully commissioned.”
    Additional solar power developments have also been announced across India totalling a combined 15.20MW, with Visakhapatnam Port having 9MW.
    Other ports that solar projects have been commissioned for are Kolkata Port (0.06MW), New Mangalore Port (4.35MW), V.O. Chidambaranar Port (0.5MW), Mumbai Port (0.125MW), Chennai Port (0.1MW), Mormugao (0.24MW) and Jawaharlal Nehru Port (0.82MW).
    The remaining solar developments will be instigated phase-wise, and are scheduled to be completed by next year.
    The initiatives come after the Indian Ports Association (IPA) and the Solar Energy Corporation of India signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) to encourage the adoption of renewable energy at Indian ports.


  • Phase II of solar park gets green signal

    Phase II of solar park gets green signal

    Finance minister Arun Jaitley Wednesday announced that the Centre would take up the second phase of solar park development for an additional capacity of 20,000 MW.
    The first scheme for “Development of Solar Parks and Ultra Mega Solar Power Projects” was rolled on December 12, 2014, with a target of 20,000 MW.
    According to a fact sheet issued by the MNRE on May 23, 2016, the central government — under this scheme — had granted the approvals to 33 solar parks of aggregate capacity of 20,000 MW to be set up in 21 states.
    The Budget also proposed customs and excise duty cuts on raw materials used for manufacturing solar modules, biogas plants and wind turbines. For example, basic customs duty on all items of machinery required for systems “operating on biogas/bio-methane/ by-product hydrogen” has been reduced from 10 to 5 per cent, while the excise duty has been reduced from 12.5 per cent to 6 per cent.
    “As expected, the 10-year tax holiday and generation-based incentives for the wind sector have been phased out. There is some rationalisation of duty structure for components used in manufacturing solar modules. But there is no big bang or material announcement,” said Vinay Rustagi, MD, Bridge to India, a market research firm. — deepak patel


  • Solar players expect tax incentives in budget, uncertainty over GST remains

    Solar players expect tax incentives in budget, uncertainty over GST remains

    A file photo of rows of solar panel in a solar power plant in China.(REUTERS)

    Amid uncertainties over the impact of Goods and Services Tax (GST) and Make in India programme being affected by falling prices of Chinese modules, solar manufacturers and developers are expecting tax incentives and policy drive to make unused money of clean energy fund available to the sector in the forthcoming union budget.

    Solar players said continuation of the appreciated depreciation, a financial incentive, along with concessional interest rates and proper use of the Rs 54,000 crore National Clean Energy Fund (renamed as Clean Environment Fund in the last year’s budget) could be crucial to achieve country’s ambitious target.

    After the Narendra Modi government came to power in 2014, it announced a major policy shift in India’s solar energy sector by multiplying the 2022 target five-fold to 100,000 MW (100 gigawatt).

    “We expect accelerated depreciation which is due to expire by March 2017 should be continued for the next five years for a greater solar adaptation. The National Clean Energy Fund which is accumulated to the extent of Rs 54,000 crore should be properly made available for solar industry. About Rs14, 000-15,000 crore was used, but the rest is mostly unutilised,” National Solar Energy Federation of India Chairman Pranav Nehta told IANS.

    “Interest rate subvention at the rate of six percent across the value chain in the solar sector should be allowed because solar industry is paying about interest rate of about 10-12 percent while their counterparts in foreign countries are paying at a 4 percent rate. How should we compete globally,” he wondered.

    Further, developers and manufacturers asked that when the country took more than 5 years to achieve 10 gigawatt (GW), could it reach 100 GW in another 5 years?

    Speaking on the budgetary expectations, consulting firm Bridge To India Managing Director Vinay Rustagi told IANS: “Main item to look out in this budget for the sector will be rationalization in tax rates and a drop in corporate taxes. It will be great if the government dedicates extra funds for transmission and off grid schemes to exploit full growth potential of the sector.”

    The solar sector, which crossed 10 GW of total installed capacity including rooftop and off-grid segments in 2016, has been facing challenges from different fronts.

    The big concern for the sector this year is GST because with implementation of the new indirect tax regime, the present tax benefits availed by the sector will be done away with and this would raise generation costs.

    “The industry is still waiting to find out what rate will be applicable to it and it remains unclear who will bear additional cost burden for projects under execution,” said Rustagi.

    The solar sector needs more clarity in GST rates and it should be kept in the lowest tax bracket, Mehta said.

    Along with the subdued power demand, the sector still faces major challenges arising from the transmission and evacuation to cope with the rising share of renewables.

    “Certainly, subdued power demand will have an adverse impact in the mid to long term. We already see discoms (distribution companies) reluctant to show interest in new tenders even when cost of solar has fallen sharply in the last year. It is pertinent to note here that RPOs (Renewable purchase obligations) are still not being enforced by regulators in most states,” Rustagi said.

    According to a Mercom Capital Group study, the project development landscape has changed significantly over the last quarter largely due to oversupply and the decline in price of Chinese solar modules. The average selling prices (ASPs) of Chinese modules in India have declined approximately 10 percent since August and the lowest module price quoted has declined by about 14 percent in the same period.

    “Make in India has been affected badly by the sharp fall in prices in China. Indian manufacturers are struggling to stay competitive and the delay in the new manufacturing policy is not helping this business. Many investors have announced large plans in the sector but most such plans are currently on hold,” Rustagi added.

    Moreover, delayed payments to developers are still an issue in states like Tamil Nadu and Rajasthan. Maharashtra and Madhya Pradesh are now behind on their payments, which raises concern that other states may follow, said Mercom Group CEO and co-founder Raj Prabhu.

    “Transmission and evacuation issues are a big concern, particularly for solar parks. Developers are losing revenue due to delays. The industry is betting on the completion of the Green Energy Corridor to solve some of these issues, but this project is moving very slowly, Prabhu told IANS.


  • Budget 2017: An opportunity lost for renewable energy

    Budget 2017: An opportunity lost for renewable energy

    Solar, alone, would require $100 billion in debt to reach 100 GW. Photo: Bloomberg

    India has an ambitious target of 175 gigawatts (GW) of solar, wind and other renewable energy by 2022. The financial needs are mammoth and India needs to look beyond fiscal allocations if the signals for clean energy have to be bold and consistent. Solar, alone, would require $100 billion in debt to reach 100 GW. International debt markets, estimated at $95 trillion, are the world’s largest pool of capital and need to be made accessible to Indian developers at affordable cost. The budget must be evaluated against this scale of need and opportunity. The role of public funds should be to either catalyse action, attract investment, or underwrite risk.

    Let us first examine fiscal priorities to catalyse action. Compared to last year (Rs5,036 crore), this year the allocation to the Ministry of New and Renewable Energy stands at Rs5,473 crore. As much as 74% of the outlay is directed to grid-interactive renewables, specifically mentioning the second phase of solar park development for 20 GW of capacity. The total budget is further split between Rs3,361 crore for solar and only Rs408 crore for wind, a clear indication that the government will continue to prioritise solar. Additionally, the budget extends support to power 2,000 railway stations through solar, under the Indian Railways 1GW solar mission. Smaller sums of Rs135 crore and Rs76 crore have been earmarked for small hydro and bio-power, respectively. Despite recent suggestions, large hydro remains outside the purview of renewable energy.

    One continuing area of uncertainty is the role of the National Environment Fund (NEF). The cess on coal remained unchanged at Rs400/tonne. While the total cess collected (projected up to 31 March 2017) was a mammoth Rs54,336 crore, only Rs25,810 crore have been transferred to NEF. Of this, under half (Rs12,427 crore) has been spent on renewable energy projects. While nearly all of the budgetary allocation to renewables in 2017-18 will be from NEF, the budget could have clarified the proportion of the cess that would be transferred to NEF.

    Another uncertainty is how the goods and services tax (GST) will impact renewables. Researchers at the Council on Energy, Environment and Water (CEEW) find that if solar components were categorised based on current levied tax rates (including exemptions and subsidies), GST would impact solar tariffs minimally. However, if preferential tax benefits to renewable energy were not accounted, then GST could raise utility scale solar tariffs by as much as 9.5%, hampering progress.

    How has the budget performed in attracting new investment? Two market opportunities stood to gain significantly from strategic budgetary support. First, residential rooftop projects could create 15 GW of renewable energy capacity in India by 2022. While budgetary support was extended for housing infrastructure, no direct support was announced for rooftop solar.

    Secondly, replacing 15% of India’s irrigation pumps with solar pumps could build 20 GW of capacity. Aiming to double farmer incomes within four years, the budget discusses mainstreaming and interlinking Primary Agriculture Credit Societies with District Central Cooperative Banks. If this increases access to low-cost loans, the incentive to invest in the upfront capital expense for solar pumps could increase.

    The budget’s real test lay in its approach to mitigating financial risk in the renewable energy, where capital costs are high, payback periods are long and off-taker, construction and foreign exchange risks raise cost of debt significantly. CEEW research shows that 70% of the costs embedded in already low solar tariffs owe to return on equity and debt servicing. But no budgetary support was extended to any agency to address risks. Moreover, financial support to the Solar Energy Corporation of India, the nodal agency for commissioning many solar and wind projects, has been halved to Rs50 crore.

    Nor has the budget given any impetus to technology development. Only Rs144 crore has been budgeted for research and development, nearly half of last year’s allocation. A recent CEEW study showed that energy storage has a number of current commercial applications for telecom towers, petrol pumps, commercial establishments, rural ATMs, and academic institutions. Yet, funding remains constrained. In 2016-17 Rs 20 crore was allocated for developing, testing and deploying energy storage technologies. In 2017-18 there is no allocation for energy storage, which could exacerbate challenges with integrating renewable energy into the grid. Again, despite some focus on transport infrastructure, no allowances have been made for electric vehicles or biofuels. While total budgetary outlay to renewable energy marginally increased, there is little to celebrate. This budget is unlikely to catalyse action, attract private investment or underwrite risks. An opportunity was lost.


  • India’s 750 Megawatt Solar Tender Draws Bids For 7,500 Megawatts

    One of the recent solar power auctions in India has received a massive response from project developers.

    The Rewa solar park tender of 750 megawatts has attracted bids from some of the leading project developers in India and abroad. A total of 20 developers have placed bids with a cumulative capacity of 7,500 megawatts (MW), translating into a 10 times over-subscription of the tender.

    The solar power park will be developed in 3 phases of 250 MW capacity each, spread over a total of 1,500 hectares. Power generation from the first phase is expected to start beginning in June 2017, with the entire capacity expected to be fully operational by December 2017.

    Of the 20 bidders, four have submitted to develop all three sections of the park. ReNew Power (one of India’s leading renewable energy developers and backed by Goldman Sachs), SBG Cleantech (joint venture between Bharti Enterprises, SoftBank and Foxconn), Enel Green Power and Adani Group (operator of India’s largest solar power project) submitted bids to develop the entire 750 megawatts of capacity.

    Hero Future Energies and Mahindra Renewables, both parts of large industrial conglomerates in India, placed bids to develop 500 megawatts each.

    A number of reputed Indian and global companies submitted bids to develop 250 megawatts of capacity each. These include Acme Solar, Orange Renewables, Torrent Power, GDF Suez, RattanIndia Power, Aditya Birla Renewables, Azure Power Canadian Solar and Solenergi Power.

    Almost a third of the planned capacity has already been allocated to the Delhi Rail Metro Corporation (DMRC) while the rest will be signed up by the distribution utilities of the host state, Madhya Pradesh. The International Finance Corporation (IFC) will provide funding for the project.


  • LED lamps, solar panels to be cheaper; silver coins, cigarettes dearer

    LED lamps, solar panels to be cheaper; silver coins, cigarettes dearer

    New Delhi, February 1

    Though Finance Minister Arun Jaitley in his budget speech for 2017-18 on Wednesday said his proposals on excise and customs duties will not result in any significant loss or gain to the exchequer, the fine print suggests a host of items can become either cheaper or dearer.

    Items like LED lamps, solar panels, printed circuit boards for mobiles, micro ATMs, finger-print machines and Iris scanners will potentially become cheaper.

    On the other hand, silver coins, cigarettes and tobacco, bidis, pan masala, goods imported through parcels, water filter membranes and cashew nuts will become dearer.

    “The Centre, through the Central Board of Excise and Customs, shall continue to strive to achieve the goal of implementation of GST (Goods and Services Tax) as per schedule without compromising the spirit of co-operative federalism,” Jaitley said while presenting the Budget.

    “Implementation of GST is likely to bring more taxes both to central and state governments because of widening of tax net. I have preferred not to make many changes in current regime of Excise and Service Tax because the same are to be replaced by GST soon,” he added. IANS


  • Maharashtra’s hopes soar on solar power boost

    Maharashtra’s hopes soar on solar power boost

    PUNE: Maharashtra is expected to get a few more solar power projects in the 20,000 MW solar power capacity addition proposed in the Union Budget.

    This capacity addition is for phase two of the Union government's solar power park project.

    A 150 MW solar power project of the Maharashtra State Power generation Company Ltd is already running at Dhule. A German investment bank KFW has given 250 million euros (Rs 1,600 crore) for this project.

    The Maharashtra Energy Development Authority has said among the renewable sources of energy, solar energy has a huge potential for power generation in Maharashtra. The state gets 250-300 days of clear sun with an available average radiation of 4 to 6 kWh/sq metre over a day. There is a capacity to generate 1.5 million units/MW/year through solar photovoltaic systems and up to 2.5 million units/MW/ year through solar thermal systems, the authority said.

    Shantanu Dixit, member, Prayas Energy Group, said, "There is a definite scope for setting up solar power projects in Maharashtra as it falls in the top slab as far as solar rays are concerned. Barring western Maharashtra and Konkan, all other regions, especially arid areas like Vidarbha, Marathwada and Solapur, are ideal for such projects due to better land availability."

    "But, it is not a game changer that will spur solar panel manufacturing in India," he added.


  • Why another e-commerce ?

    This is a natural question when commerce thru electronic mediums is every where. Is there a scope for another entrant? Does there exist a vacuum somewhere or a pain point with a potential to be filled or resolved?
    This is humongous question that delves in the very fabric of this work. This will probably be the first of a series of blogs that I will write, that delves into the entire story as I see it over the next few days.
    In the meantime, stay tuned friends ...

  • Madhya Pradesh woos global investors with mega solar project

    Madhya Pradesh woos global investors with mega solar project

    India has over 8.5 gigawatts (GW) of solar power capacity and is targeting 100GW by 2022. Of this, 40GW will come from rooftop solar projects.

    New Delhi: The world’s largest solar power plant, coming up in Madhya Pradesh, has caught the interest of clean energy companies from around the world.

    Twenty leading firms, including Italy’s Enel Green Power SpA, SoftBank-promoted SBG Cleantech Ltd, Canadian Solar Energy Holding, Singapore3 Pte Ltd and Green Infra Wind Power Project Ltd, promoted by Sembcorp Industries Ltd, have expressed interest.

    “The 20 firms will bid for three units of 250 megawatts (MW) each that make up the project in the second round of auctions to be held in about 10 days,” said a person with direct knowledge of the development, speaking on condition of anonymity. The first round of auctions was held earlier this month.

    The 750MW plant is being set up in Rewa district by Rewa Ultra Mega Power Ltd, a joint venture between Solar Energy Corporation of India Ltd and Madhya Pradesh Urja Vikas Nigam Ltd. In the second round, companies will compete on the tariff at which they can sell power.

    Shapoorji Pallonji Infrastructure Capital Co. Ltd, Torrent Power Ltd, Hero Future Energies Pvt. Ltd, ReNew Power Ventures Pvt. Ltd, Azure Power Global Ltd, Aditya Birla Renewables Ltd, Mahindra Renewables Pvt. Ltd and Orange Renewable Power Ltd are among the bidders.

    A spokesperson for Sembcorp India said renewable power projects in India that are large scale and offer adequate coverage of payment and development risks will be attractive for long-term investors. “India is one of Sembcorp’s key markets and an integral part of the company’s emerging market strategy. We are constantly on a lookout for suitable opportunities in the country. However as a policy, we do not comment on any specific opportunities,” the spokesperson said in response to an emailed query.

    India has over 8.5 gigawatts (GW) of solar power capacity and is targeting 100GW by 2022. Of this, 40GW will come from rooftop solar projects. With the renewable-power purchase obligations of power distribution utilities, falling prices of imported solar panels from China and concessional taxation on solar panels, the industry has been growing rapidly, resulting in falling tariffs and a boost for electrical equipment manufacturing and services.

    According to a report issued this month by clean energy research firm Mercom Capital Group, renewable energy project development has changed significantly over the last quarter largely due to Chinese module price declines. “The average selling prices of Chinese modules in India have declined about 10% since August and by about 30% over the last 12 months. This has provided a much-needed boost to developers which won projects at low bids and were struggling to make project economics work,” said the report.

    According to Ashish Khanna, executive director and chief executive of Tata Power Solar Systems Ltd, a stronger focus on solar panel and equipment manufacturing, better access to finance and streamlined import duties on panels and system components will go a long way in reaching the 100GW target.


  • Centre calls national review meet to push clean energy projects

    Centre calls national review meet to push clean energy projects

    India plans to achieve 175 GW of renewable energy capacity by 2022 as part of its climate commitments. Photo: Bloomberg

    The meeting, called on 23 and 24 January, will be attended by top officials from the states and the Centre involved in helping India achieve its clean energy commitments

    New Delhi: Removing squatters from good wind potential sites, inordinate delays in signing of power purchase agreements, timely payments and distribution firms shying away from procuring electricity generated from wind energy projects will be some of the issues that the National Democratic Alliance-led Narendra Modi government plans to discuss at an apex meeting of states and the nodal agencies for ironing out issues plaguing the green energy sector.

    The meeting called on 23 and 24 January is scheduled to be attended by top officials from the states and the Centre involved in helping India achieve its clean energy commitments.

    Some of the other issues on the agenda for the meeting, available on the website of the ministry of new and renewable energy (MNRE) inlcude; proper scheduling and forecasting of wind energy, availability of transmission facilities and rationalisation of transmission tariffs for wind energy projects.

    Under the topic Issues for Discussion with States, the agenda states, “Many of good potential sites have been blocked/squatted in some windy states by individuals/organizations for extended periods in the name of wind resource assessment or project development.”

    “States are requested to assess such sites blocked in the state and issue notice for last opportunity to develop the project within a time frame.In case on non-compliance of time lines, the site should be evicted for fresh allocations. Further, future allocation of land should be in transparent process with strictly adherence to the given time line,” the note adds.

    In India, which is the biggest greenhouse gas emitter after the US and China, renewable energy currently accounts for 15%, or 45,917 MW, of the total installed capacity of 3,10,005 MW. Of this wind energy projects alone account for 28,083 MW.

    Experts believe that while wind energy sector had met with early success, it has been facing many an impediments.

    “The Centre and the states have worked closely to ensure unprecedented renewable capacity addition. The National Review Meeting is a good initiative—issues like land acquisition for projects outside solar parks or back-downs should also get resolved soon with initiatives like these from MNRE,” said Srishti Ahuja, director, at consulting firm EY.

    This comes in the backdrop of India achieving only around 19% of the targeted 12,000 MW solar power in 2016-17 till now (31 December 2016).

    “It has been reported by the wind industry that some state discoms are not making timely payment to the wind power generators. The delay is more than six months and in some cases it is more than one year. This creates serious problems for developers to maintain their cashflow as they also have to pay-back towards loan liability in time. This also hampers the confidence of banks/financial institutions in funding the wind power projects,” according to the agenda note.

    Some of the marquee schemes to help India emerge as a clean energy champion include the national solar mission, solar parks, rooftop solar projects, biomass, biogas and small hydro programme.

    India plans to achieve 175 GW of renewable energy capacity by 2022 as part of its climate commitments.


  • Govt mulls introducing fixed-cost component in renewable energy tariff

    Govt mulls introducing fixed-cost component in renewable energy tariff

    India’s demand for renewable energy is expected to grow by seven times in 2035. Photo: Bloomberg

    New Delhi: The government is exploring a change in the tariff structure for electricity from clean energy sources to boost India’s efforts to promote a green economy.

    The ministry of new and renewable energy is contemplating a fixed-cost component to the tariff for electricity generated from renewable energy sources such as solar or wind.

    The idea is to prevent distribution companies (discoms) shying away from procuring electricity generated by such projects, as they will have to pay the fixed tariff component even if they don’t buy the electricity contracted for.

    Such a tariff mechanism already exists for electricity from conventional sources such as coal and gas which has two parts—a fixed cost, which is the investment incurred towards power generation equipment, and a variable cost or the cost of fuel.

    “The government is contemplating introducing a fixed component in the renewable energy tariff to prevent states from backing down from buying electricity from renewable energy sources,” said a person aware of the development, on conditions of anonymity.

    Mint reported on 14 January about issues such as inordinate delays in signing of power purchase agreements, timely payments and power distribution companies shying away from procuring electricity generated from wind energy projects as some of the issues plaguing the renewable energy sector.

    “The idea is to fix a certain component which will allow a renewable energy project developer to service the debts even if the distribution companies (discoms) back down from buying electricity. It is under consideration,” said a government official, who too sought anonymity.

    Experts say this is an important step for promoting green energy.

    “While this is a positive development for attracting investments, appropriate planning, demand projection for procurement strategies, commercial contracts and safeguarding utilities and consumers’ interest must be thought through,” said Sambitosh Mohapatra, partner (energy) at PwC India.

    India’s demand for renewable energy is expected to grow by seven times in 2035, according to the latest BP Energy Outlook, which means the share of renewable energy in the country’s fuel mix will increase from 2% to 8% in 2035.

    India, the third-largest energy consumer after the US and China, plans to achieve 175 gigawatt (GW) of renewable energy capacity by 2022 as part of its global climate change commitments.

    India is the biggest greenhouse gas emitter after the US and China but renewable energy accounts for 15% of the total installed capacity.

    The government says India has a renewable energy potential of around 900GW.

    Queries sent via email to the spokesperson of the ministry of new and renewable energy on Friday remained unanswered.


  • e-commerce of tomorrow that is available for you today

  • Why India's canals could help fast forward its solar plans

    As far as the eye can see, line after line of solar panels stretch out in the midday sun beating down on the village of Chandrasan here in this eastern Gujarat district, which squeezes in 80 more people per sq km than India’s already crowded average of 441 people per sq km.

    But there is no land conflict involved with the Chandrasan installation because the solar panels unfurl over a 750 m length of irrigation canal.

    The canal-top solar panels were installed in India’s sunniest state in 2012 and now offer hope for a country three times as densely populated as China, at a time when India aims for almost a nine-fold increase in solar capacity between between 2017 and 2022 to fulfil global climate-change commitments and reduce its dependence on coal-fired power plants.

    The canal-top idea was first tabled at a 2011 Vibrant Gujarat Summit by the then Chief Minister of Gujarat, Narendra Modi, said Bela Jani, a spokesperson at state-owned Gujarat State Electricity Corporation Limited (GSECL). The aim was to utilise the area above the canals, saving the government the cost, time and inconvenience associated with land acquisition.

    Gujarat alone has a canal network of 80,000 km. Using even 30% of this network for canal-top solar projects, according to GSECL estimates, 18,000 MW of power could be produced in just Gujarat–almost equal to the current coal-based installed capacity of Delhi, Rajasthan and Telangana–and 90,000 acres of land, or twice the size of Kolkata, could be saved.

    In other words, installing solar-panels over 30% of Gujarat’s canals could be used to meet nearly a fifth of India’s solar power targets by 2022.

    Currently, about 100 MW of solar installations atop and besides canals are either approved or under construction in eight Indian states. Government subsidies are limited to public-sector companies that own canals or canal banks, but, if successful, private-sector involvement is inevitable.

    Solar power is important to India’s future electricity needs

    Coal generates over 75% of India’s electricity and is among the cheapest energy sources available, IndiaSpend reported in May 2015.

    With over 300 million Indians without reliable energy, and industrial demand growing, the need for coal-fired electricity is estimated to increase three times by 2030, with consequent environmental impacts.

    But in talking about what he calls the “seven horses of energy”–coal, nuclear, hydro, gas, solar, wind and biogas–Prime Minister Narendra Modi has declared that India’s efforts should increasingly move towards the latter three.

    The real potential in a sunny country to replace fossil fuels is solar: India has a renewable-energy potential of about 895 GW, of which 750 GW is solar, as IndiaSpend reported in February 2015.

    By 2022, solar energy could achieve grid-parity in India, meaning it would cost the same as other sources of electricity–although some reports suggest this might happen by 2018. That is the year, as another IndiaSpend report said, renewable-energy sector, primarily solar, could generate 1 million jobs–over 400,000 already exist, according to a 2016 status report by Renewable Energy Policy Network for the 21st Century, a global, multi-stakeholder network based out of Paris.

    Solar power plants can be built faster than either coal, gas or nuclear power plants. Further, in the decade ending 2014, solar installed capacity went up from 2.6 GW to 139 GW, a jump of 50 times over the initial capacity in just ten years, largely because of falling costs and improving solar-cell technology.

    The critical issue around solar installations in India is space, as IndiaSpend reported in May 2015. That is where the nation’s canals come in.

    Canal-top solar power is most efficient, has longer life and saves water

    The power output of ground-mounted solar panels decreases at a rate of 1% every year for the first 10 years. However, panels mounted on Chandrasan’s canal showed no degradation and power generated stayed stable over the past three years, according to research conducted by the Gujarat Energy Research and Management Institute (GERMI), a research institution promoted by the Gujarat State Petroleum Corporation Ltd, which is a Govt of India undertaking.

    “Not only do they perform more efficiently, but because we can assume that the generated electricity is utilised in nearby areas, the transmission losses of (normally) 4% and distribution losses of 3% are avoided,” said Sagarkumar Agravat, head of GERMI’s solar research and development.

    Apart from this, since the panels are placed on top of water, they are cooled from below, which also increases their efficiency and enhances output by 2.5-5%.

    Essentially, this means the panels will last longer than 25 years, which is the average lifespan of a ground-mounted solar panel, while producing more power due to increased efficiency.

    The study concluded that canal-top installations outperform both traditional ground- mounted solar installations and systems on canal banks.


    Source: Gujarat State Electricity Corporation Limited data, shared with IndiaSpend; *since April 2012. Ground-mounted panels studied at Pandit Deendayal Petroleum University, near Gandhinagar.

    Canal-top panels, by absorbing heat, help reduce water evaporation. A 1-MW canal-top plant can save the evaporation of up to 9 million litres of water per year, according to a GSECL estimate shared with IndiaSpend, saving enough to provide 2,500 households with 10 litres of water every day for a year. As more canals are covered, the savings increase.

    The use of solar energy also stops the emission of close to 1.28 million metric tonnes per year of carbon dioxide (CO2), a major greenhouse gas, according to this report. This is roughly equivalent to the annual energy use of 110,000 American households saved from a 1 MW plant.

    Why solar power is important to India’s climate-change commitments

    By 2030, global greenhouse-gas emissions are expected to reach 54-56 giga-tonnes of CO2 equivalent (GtCO2eq)–far exceeding the level of 42 required to limit global warming to 2 degree Celcius by the year 2100, according to data from the Emissions Gap Report 2016, compiled by the United Nations Environment Programme every year.

    The Paris Agreement, which aims to hold temperature rise to below 2 degree CelciusC by 2100 compared to pre-industrial levels, came into force on November 4, 2016, barely a month after India ratified the treaty on October 2, 2016.

    The 2016 Emissions Gap Report also states that despite full implementation of all the Paris pledges submitted by countries under their Nationally Determined Contribution (NDC), global temperatures are still set to rise to levels ranging from 2.9 degree Celcius to 3.4 degree Celcius. This means that countries must now go beyond their intended contributions if they hope to arrest global warming.

    As part of its Intended Nationally Determined Contribution, India has committed to source 40% of its electricity from non-fossil fuel sources by 2030. By October 2016, renewable installations amounted to nearly 15% of the installed energy capacity, according to the Central Electricity Authority.

    Source: Ministry of New and Renewable Energy; *As on October 31, 2016

    India now faces the challenge of adding a close to 91 GW of solar-power capacity over the next six years to reach its target of 100 GW of solar energy by 2022. In a land-starved country, finding space to install solar plants will be a challenge. This is where India’s network of irrigation canals could be useful.

    As land availability falls, canal-top solar prospects look bright

    In 2012, when the first canal-top project was commissioned, the land required for a 1 MW solar installation was about 5 acres. By 2015, with advances in technology, this was down to 4 acres, Jani said.

    Given that the population density of India during the same period (2015) was over 3 times that of China at 441 people per sq km, and over 7.5 times the world average of 56.6 people per sq km, land availability will inhibit solar-energy expansions.

    Space-saving designs, such as Gujarat’s canal-top installations and floating solar panels (in Kolkata), could ensure future renewables growth.

    However, capital costs of canal-top installations are, currently, higher than their ground- mounted counterparts. The 1-MW solar plant at Chandrasan (in 2012) cost Rs. 17.73 crore, 77.3% higher than the benchmark cost issued by Central Electricity Regulatory Commission.

    A 10-MW canal-top solar plant at Vadodara (in 2015) cost about 47.6% higher than the benchmark cost, according to Neeraj Kuldeep, a research analyst with the Council on Energy, Environment and Water (CEEW), a not-for-profit research institution based in New Delhi.