Cross-subsidy of power tariffs lure businesses to solar energy

The fall in solar power generation cost has now made it attractive for businesses to go for captive solar power plan

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New Delhi: The practice of forcing industries to cross-subsidize household consumers’ power tariffs is leading to an unprecedented shift among businesses towards captive solar power with some committing to go fully reliant on clean energy.

Cost of producing solar power, which was over Rs12 per kilowatt hour (unit) in 2010, has dropped sharply over the years.

The latest auction, which was held in November, saw takers for solar power projects willing to sell power at Rs3 a unit.

The fall in solar power generation cost has now made it attractive for businesses to go for captive solar power plants, including rooftop plants that supply power cheaper than from the grid, which is expensive on account of the cross-subsidy that industrial consumers are saddled with.

Businesses, especially in the manufacturing sector, have long been complaining of high cost of power, exorbitant tax on diesel and escalating cost of capital as factors that render them less competitive in global markets where their peers enjoy low or negative cost of capital and in some cases, subsidies.

“Solar power is now available at Rs 4-4.5 a unit. In the future, it will cost much less because of technology improvement and possibly low cost of capital. In West Bengal, for instance, cost of power from the grid for industries ranges from Rs 6-8 per unit at present. In Maharashtra, it is Rs 6.5 a unit. Everywhere, except two or three states, tariffs are above Rs 5 a unit for industrial consumers. If you are able to get concessional finance from any multilateral agency and you can produce solar power at Rs 4 a unit consistently for 25 years, it can reduce cost of energy for the business and reduce carbon emissions,” said Mahendra Singhi, chief executive officer, Dalmia Cements (Bharat) Ltd.

Dalmia Cements’s short term goal is to raise the share of clean energy in its total electricity consumption fourfold from 7% at present and to go fully reliant on clean energy in the long term.

Multilateral agencies such as International Finance Corp. (IFC), the private investment arm of World Bank Group, US Exim Bank, the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), the Japan International Cooperation Agency and Germany’s KFW are bullish on India’s rapidly expanding renewable energy industry for investment opportunities.

“We already have $1 billion of investments in clean energy projects in India. We are open to scaling it up to $3-4 billion in coming years,” said Shalabh Tandon, India lead, climate business & clean energy, IFC.

IFC on Thursday announced an equity investment of $125 million in Hero Future Energies Private Ltd., a clean energy firm, for a minority stake. Tandon said that IFC does not invest in coal-based thermal power because of its commitment to climate change goals.

Companies like Apple Inc., IKEA Group, Nokia Oyj, Infosys Ltd and Tata Motors Ltd are among those committed to becoming fully reliant on clean energy.

The Economic Survey 2015-16 had suggested that the burden of subsidising poor consumers can shift from industrial consumers to rich individuals and that state electricity regulators should use income as a yardstick to fix the power tariff for individual consumers. The idea was to help businesses become more competitive.

India has a target of putting in place 175 gigawatt (GW) of renewable power capacity by 2022, out of which 100 GW is to come from solar. At the moment, the country has about 8.7 GW of solar power capacity.

One hurdle that companies face in going fully reliant on clean energy is that storage of energy is a costly proposition, which makes them rely on stable power from the grid for a significant part of their energy consumption when renewable energy is not available. Singhi of Dalmia Cements said that once power storage becomes a viable option, the company will be fully run on clean energy.

View original post on: http://www.livemint.com/Industry/hjuezPVDJdbEbipsCKavSN/Crosssubsidy-of-power-tariffs-lure-businesses-to-solar-ener.html

Accountability of regulators a serious crisis in India: Goyal

Stating that accountability of regulators was a very serious crisis that the country was facing, Union Minister Piyush Goyal today said very often they are not even able to justify many of their decisions.
“The one very, very serious crisis that the nation is facing today is the accountability of regulators. There is almost no accountability of regulators. And in the garb of independence of regulation, it occasionally goes to another extreme,” the Union Minister of State for Power, Coal, New and Renewable Energy and Mines said.
He was speaking at a seminar on ‘Ease of Doing Business- Regulators as Facilitators’ at Vibrant Gujarat Global Summit 2017 here.Pointing at regulation of environment sector as a case in point, he said the sector suffered due to “over regulation as regulators are not able to justify many decisions”.

“The environment sector has suffered due to over regulation and very often regulators are not able to justify many decisions. So, you have a situation, where there is nothing like forest for an area called forest, no satellite image, no ground report says there is a single tree in that area,” he said adding that seeking building permission or regulatory permission for such areas causes a lot of trouble.

Attending the seminar were chairman of Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) Ashish Bahuguna, chairman of Competition Commission of India (CCI) Devendra Kumar Sikri, and chairman of Central Electricity Regulatory Commission (CERC) Gireesh Pradhan, among others.

“Transparency is another area, when we look at the regulatory process. Regulators should be open about their working, hearings should as far as possible be more and more in public domain, and speaking orders, with a logical approach, should be available in public domain so that others should benchmark their business process to whatever is decided by regulators,” he told the audience.

“And regulators should also be user-friendly rather than being under the shroud of what really was the intent of regulators and intent of law. Lastly, it is important to target regulation on what the problem is, so that we don’t tend to go haywire and over-exceed our brief,” Goyal said.

“If we can keep the side effects of regulations minimum, it can help make regulators truly a facilitator person and help economic growth. We can then have a situation where people are not fearsome of regulators, we have to get fear out of regulation,” he said.

“In that sense, policy makers and regulators should work hand in hand. You can’t have a situation, where policy makers and regulators think differently,” he added.

View original post on Business standard: http://www.business-standard.com/article/pti-stories/accountability-of-regulators-a-serious-crisis-in-india-goyal-117011101448_1.html

Has India’s Energy Sector Really Transformed?

SL Rao

Most importantly, Piyush Goyal, the Union Minister for Power and Renewable Energy, Coal, and Mines has cleared the coal sector’s Augean Stables, which were riddled with corruption, theft, and inefficiency. Coal is easily available today, imports have fallen, and global prices have fallen along with those of oil and gas.

Falling domestic demand has sent coal prices lower as well. Power is surplus despite power plants working at a low average plant load factor of 60 percent. But at the same time, around 30 crore people remain without electricity.

Does This Indicate A Transformation?

Not so much. On the positive side is the coal availability and price situation, increasing but still inadequate interstate transmission capacity, some reduction in transmission and collection losses.

But state-owned power distribution companies do not generate enough of their own funds to buy power from within the state or from outside. This is because tariffs remain uneconomical for the distribution companies.

States have violated the law that permits open access for distribution companies to purchase cheaper power from other states. Instead, they buy expensive power from within the state.

Ruling parties treat power as a public good which must be available to all, irrespective of their ability to pay. This has meant that power is given free or below cost to many households, for agriculture in many states, and to some other favoured consumers. Agricultural use of free or cheap power has led to a surge in water-intensive crops like rice and sugarcane, often on soil that is unsuitable. Outcomes range from saline soil to depleting groundwater and river water levels.

The government just ends up accumulating large stockpiles of rice. Compounding that, the Government of India has a minimum support price policy that encourages cereals even when the demand is falling. It has no relation to water availability and use for the crops.

There has been no improvement in gas supplies to operate stranded power generation capacity. Even when gas is available, demand may not be sufficient. Gas generation is flexible and can usefully back-up variable generation from renewables.

Renewable Energy And Efficient Appliances

Wind and solar renewable energy capacities have gone up significantly, as have some small hydro-electric projects. Governments incur subsidy expenditure in promoting renewable energy, but regulators have failed to enforce renewable energy obligations, resulting in a loss of revenue for the generators of clean power. State power distribution companies have not been compelled to meet renewable energy obligations in their total power supply mix.

Progress has been made on energy efficiency. The distribution of LED light bulbs has helped conserve a significant amount of power, as have other measures initiated by the Bureau of Energy Efficiency. This may well have resulted in some decline in demand for generated electricity.

UDAY Scheme: A Stop-Gap Fix

The power sector benefited from the Ujwal DISCOM Assurance Yojana (UDAY) scheme, which reduced debt on the books of state distribution companies by getting the corresponding state government to take over the debt. This, however, has not made any of the distribution companies profitable, but the saving in interest costs has freed some cash.

The UDAY scheme is the best that the Centre can do since electricity is a concurrent subject in the Constitution.

The scheme needs to be seen, not as a solution, but as short-term relief. Power distribution is a state subject, and ruling parties are populist about electricity pricing as they are able to woo large electoral voting blocs.

This is made possible via the appointment of state regulators who are mostly compliant, often from the community of retired bureaucrats who have served in the same state. Until regulators are appointed for their independence, courage, and lack of subservience to ruling governments, there can be little change in the dire financial position of power distribution companies.

It is apparent that fundamental change still eludes the power sector.

UDAY is merely transferring some distribution debt to state governments. It does not tackle the problem of below-cost tariffs and significant inefficiency caused by government ownership.

The only way state governments can indefinitely continue taking on power distribution debt as it accumulates, is via the annual budgetary exercise. But doing so will divert funds from vital state spending – on human capital, law and order, and the building of infrastructure.

There is no option but to charge users a tariff that is remunerative to the company.

Regulate Well, Build Capacity, Store Better

Regulators must have the authority to punish those responsible for below-cost tariffs, and delays in Aggregate Revenue Requirement filings. Transmission and distribution losses, poor collection, and theft of electricity must be targeted, monitored and failures severely penalised.

Interstate and intrastate transmission capacities are grossly inadequate. Governments are the primary investors in this space, more so because private investors are put off by long and frequent government delays, and the consequent costs.

Delays in giving government clearances on land, environment, forest and others have held up many a project, keeping out subsequent private investment.

While India is taking rapid strides in renewable energy, and there are heavy government subsidies involved, there is little investment in backup storage capacity to make up for a shortfall when there is no sun or little wind.

This storage can be of water, batteries or as flexible generation capacities in gas or coal.

In sum, the energy and especially the power sector in India has experienced an uncoordinated set of policies that have left this vital sector largely in government hands and running at a loss. Foreign investment is most unlikely in such a sector. The domestic investment that has taken place is not very profitable. Their supply is either confined to large users or use other means to cover costs.

Huge investment has been made in the power sector, but it needs more. The present surplus is artificial and not due to demand satisfaction, as much as to poor revenues. The energy sector must be approached in its entirety, policies must be integrated for the private as well as public sector to run it in a way that is remunerative.

SL Rao is a Distinguished Fellow Emeritus at The Energy and Resources Institute (TERI), and was the first chairman of the Central Electricity Regulatory Commission.

(This article was originally published in BloombergQuint.)

 

View original Post on: https://www.thequint.com/environment/2017/04/03/energy-sector-transformation-renewable

Infrastructure: As far as private power producers are concerned, no light at the end of the tunnel

With around 45,000 MW of power capacity running at sub-60% Plant Load Factor (PLF), servicing their staggering debt of `1.9 trn has become a challenge for India’s thermal power producers.

With around 45,000 MW of power capacity running at sub-60% Plant Load Factor (PLF), servicing their staggering debt of `1.9 trn has become a challenge for India’s thermal power producers. To make matters worse, state discoms have been unwilling to sign power purchase agreements (PPAs) with private producers, opting for central and state power utilities instead. The PLF of the private sector’s coal-based plants fell to 56.45% in the ten months to January 2017 from 83.9% in FY10, as per data available with the Central Electricity Authority. The figure stood at 62.60% in January 2016.

The authority estimates that another 50,000 MW capacity would get commissioned over the FY18-22 period. The central and state utilities would account for 50% of this capacity and the private sector for 40%. Unfortunately, things are unlikely to get any better in the near future. “As the short-term power prices are likely to remain benign and discoms are unwilling to sign PPAs, capacities are unlikely to see an increase in PLF going forward,” Salil Garg, Director Corporate at India Ratings, says.

An analysis of the financials of power producers like GMR Infrastructure, GVK Power & Infrastructure, Lanco Infratech, KSK Energy, and Jindal India Power Ltd reveals the state of affairs as far as private power producers are concerned. GMR Infrastructure suffered a loss of `381 crore in the third quarter of FY17 compared with a profit of `40 crore a year ago. Two of its coal-based power plants—GMR Warora Energy Venture Ltd and GMR Kamalanga Energy Ltd—registered an accumulated loss of `3,022 crore as of December 31, 2016. GMR Chhattisgarh Energy, another subsidiary, saw lenders taking control of the project in February by converting `2,992 crore of the `8,800 crore debt into equity.

Lanco Infratech, an infrastructure-cum-power company, incurred a loss of `813 crore for the third quarter ended Dec 31 compared with a profit of `35.19 crore a year ago. The earnings before interest and tax (EBIT) for its power segment dropped 47.24% to `232.10 crore and the revenues fell around 20% to `1,190 crore. The company is looking at options to sell its operational assets. As for GVK Power & Infrastructure, it incurred a net loss of `71 lakh in Q3, compared to a loss of `6.80 crore a year ago. For its single coal-based power plant in the Taran Taran district of Punjab, the company is facing fuel supply issues.

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Another Hyderabad-based power producer, KSK Energy Ltd, saw its losses growing to `17 crore in the third quarter from `14 crore a year ago. The company is believed to be in talks with lenders to refinance its Mahanadi project debt—`11,691 crore of the total `19,000 crore—under the 5/25 scheme of the Reserve Bank of India.

The fall in tariffs in solar and wind segments has compounded problems for thermal power producers. “The drop in tariff for solar projects to `2.97 per unit in the latest bidding in Madhya Pradesh and the levellised tariff of `3.34 per unit would be an additional burden for conventional power generators, as their cost of production has gone up due to cost overruns on fuel supply and environmental clearances,” an analyst with a Mumbai-based foreign brokerage says. The renewable segment is likely to see consolidation going ahead as the government’s target of attaining 175,000 MW of renewable energy capacity by 2022 approaches closer, he adds. As much as 15,000 MW of solar and 9,000 MW of wind capacity creation is likely to be targetted in the new financial year (FY18).

 

View original post on Financial Express: http://www.financialexpress.com/industry/infrastructure-as-far-as-private-power-producers-are-concerned-no-light-at-the-end-of-the-tunnel/612437/

India Focus: Financing the renewables dream

India has surprised many with the speed and government commitment of its renewable energy programme. But what are the financial challenges behind taking the country’s clean energy ambitions to the next stage. 

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There are few countries in the world – and arguably none in the so-called developing world – that have renewable energy targets as ambitious as those of India.

When the country announced in 2015 that it was planning to have an installed renewable energy capacity of 175 GW by 2022, many industry observers believed this was simply undeliverable.

And yet the country is on track to beat that target by a couple of years, thanks to a raft of policy initiatives and financial backing, not least from domestic investors.

“India is absolutely committed to renewable energy targets and clean energy growth and nothing will stop that,” said Piyush Goyal, minister of state for Power, Coal New and Renewable Energy and Mines at the World Future Energy Summit in Abu Dhabi in January.

He said that today, “renewable energy stands on its own feet”.

“Gone are the days when governments need to provide support. It makes good economic sense to invest in clean energy and energy efficiency.”

Kishor Nair, chief operating officer of Welspun Energy, says that when Goyal took charge, “particularly in the first six months, he was having a lot of discussions with industry to understand the problems of developers in executing projects. The tariffs have come down because of a lot of enabling policies. A lot of initiatives were taken in cutting down the project costs, optimizing the projects earlier.”

Vikram Kailas is managing director of Mytrah Energy, which was formed in 2010, when it raised $80 million from institutional investors such as Capital Group, Blackrock and Henderson.

“So we have seen the transformation of the industry,” said Kailas at the World Future Energy Summit. “When we started the company, a seven-year loan was standard and interest rates were about 13 per cent. Today, 18-20 year loans are standard in India and interest rates have down to about 10 per cent.”

Mytrah Energy presently has a total wind portfolio capacity of 1000 MW across 15 wind farms in eight states – Rajasthan, Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Andhra Pradesh, Telangana, Karnataka and Tamil Nadu.

Kailas says “India is going through a transformation” with, for the first time, 1000 MW of wind having been tendered. “It’s a good move for two reasons. One, it opens up the boundaries beyond state level and increases the demand, and I believe that it leads to transparent pricing. It’ll lead to a better price realization both for the state and for the industry.”

Vinjay Rustagi is managing director of Bridge to India, a renewables consulting and research company working with “everybody across the whole value chain”.

He said: “When you talk to major international investors about the Indian renewables sector, the fundamentals for the sector are compelling.”

“When you look at the imperative to reduce carbon emissions, the growing power demand, the desire to reduce energy costs, as well to provide power to people 24/7 across India, the fundamentals are so strong that we see a strongly growing renewable power sector for one or two or more decades in the future.”

Rustagi says that the key in India is that the renewables market “provides visibility, growth and strong government support which are huge positives for financiers in the sector”.

To deliver India’s big renewables ambitions is going to take big money. “We think that the total financing requirement for the sector is about $120 billion based on today’s cost of installing and setting up these systems,” says Rustagi. “That is spread between equity and debt in the ratio of 25 and 75 per cent. Most of that investment is geared towards power generation, which is being dominated by the private sector. And of course there needs to be a lot of ancillary investment in transmission and distribution and upgrading of the grid, which is currently led by the public sector.”

The scale and pace of India’s renewables rollout is vast and fast. “The key thing is, historically, the sector has been about 5 GW a year – going forward we want to scale that up to 10-15 GW a year,” explains Rustagi. “Is India and investors ready to make this sustainable on a long-term basis? Is there enough appetite in the financing market to support this growth?”

He said “the biggest risk for any entity that is setting up a renewable project is the ability of the grid to absorb and sell the power to consumers. A huge amount of work needs to go into making the grid strong and resilient enough to cope with the growing renewables capacity in the country.”

“If the Indian government wants to attract enough private investments, it needs to make sure that developers don’t have to take risks and that the transmission grid is capable of coping with the extra supply of renewables.”

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Minister Piyush Goyal: “It makes good economic sense to invest in clean energy.”

Credit: IRENA

Another risk which international investors are worried about in India is the country’s distribution companies. “There are companies which still by and large are government-owned and they have various pressures – political and regulatory – to keep tariffs low,” says Rustagi. “Their balance sheets are not very strong, so the question really is: can distribution companies make sure that they can absorb all this growing capacity in the country.”

A further concern – though perhaps less so now than in past years – is the Rupee risk. He said PPAs were all structured in Rupees and “when you’re coming from outside, there’s a genuine concern over what happens when the Rupee depreciates. The Rupee has been volatile over the last six-to-seven years. But I think over a period of time, driven by the attractiveness of the market, many international investors have got comfortable with the Rupee depreciation risk. This is something that you can build into your financial model – you can quantify it.”

The financial players

So who is playing in the Indian market? There is huge interest from both the international and the Indian community to finance projects: international developers, private equity and Indian corporates.

“The interesting thing,” says Rustagi, “is that it is the Indian corporates and private equity funds who have dominated the market. International investors bring big balance sheets, and cheaper cost of money, but we see that the India players have been the most aggressive in the market.”

However, he poses the question: “What happens to these investors over a period of time. Most Indian investors don’t arguably have a long-term view – they want to churn their assets, recycle their funding – so is there enough debt in the market to be able to absorb their funding on a long-term basis?”

Rustagi says debt for the sector is “mainly coming from Indian lenders who seem to have a huge appetite”.

“The India renewables market is very attractive. It offers multiple-decade growth and strong policies from the government. On the equity side, the key issue if scale of capital.”

Daanish Varma, director of Sustainable Investment Banking at Yes Bank, says “lenders have become much more comfortable with the solar story – they understand the technology”.

But he adds that once other capital-intensive infrastructure projects in India start picking up, renewables will have to compete for capital, “so we will have to watch out for that”.

He too says India is a bank-driven debt market. So how does the sector bring in the big bucks of the bond and pension markets. “Once we address the risk portion of it,” says Varma. “Once we are able to say that operating renewable assets in India is as secure as you can get, then you get the bond market and the pension investors coming into the process. You need to move from a private-equity play to a pension play for renewable assets.”

But Anand Rohtagi, managing director of Synergy Consulting, warns: “I don’t think India is ready for the equity capital needed for the quantum of solar technology you are looking at. If you see where India stands today, we have had domestic developers look at the market, international investors are standing behind the domestic developers – there is not a single international developer looking at the market. That’s where the issue lies.

“India today does not have access to long-term equity capital. Most of the capital you see is short term. For the sector to grow it needs long-term capital – it needs players who can hold equity for 15-to-20 years. So India is a long way from the equity-funding cycle.”

View original post on: http://www.powerengineeringint.com/articles/print/volume-25/issue-3/features/financing-the-renewables-dream.html

Wind power bids seem unrealistic

To operate at a tariff of, say, ₹3.50 a unit, projects need to achieve a plant load factor of 35 per cent, which is a tall order

The recent bid by the Solar Energy Corporation of India (SECI) to set up 1000 MW wind power plants saw tariffs drop to ₹3.46 per unit. This has set a new benchmark for wind power in India, bringing the overall cost of power down in a rapidly growing economy.

Despite being India’s first wind power project tender, SECI was oversubscribed 2.6 times. Bids were concentrated in three States; with Tamil Nadu receiving the highest share of 1794 MW, followed by Gujarat with 700 MW and Karnataka with 100 MW.

The tender was floated by the SECI to help non-windy States access wind power by linking them to the inter-state transmission system. Project developers will sign a 25-year PPA with the Power Trading Corporation of India, which, in turn, shall sign back-to-back arrangements with discoms /bulk customers of non-windy States. Waiver of inter-State transmission charges and compensation for system losses till the interconnection point by allowing for construction of 5 per cent additional capacity were also provided as part of the tender.

Until now, wind energy in India followed the feed-in-tariff (FIT) route with tariffs for long-term PPAs with State discoms ranging from ₹4- 6 per unit. With the SECI tender mitigating key risks of off-take, evacuation and payment and going by the recent solar bidding process which witnessed tariffs fall below the ₹3 mark, the level of interest observed shouldn’t come as a surprise.

But, having lived through a situation where aggressive bidding in infrastructure projects has not worked in the industry’s favour, it does make us wonder about the strength of the underlying assumptions made in these bids.

A basic number crunching carried out with a tariff of ₹3.46 per unit at prevalent industry conditions – Central Electricity Regulatory Commission (CERC) estimated project cost of about ₹6.2 crore per MW, debt to equity of 70:30, financing at 9.5-10 per cent – indicates that Plant Load Factors (PLFs) of about 33-35 per cent may be required to fetch investors reasonable returns of 15-16 per cent.

Standing on shaky ground

Going by the historically available PLF data of wind power plants in India and limited availability of high wind density sites, achieving such PLFs consistently for the 25-year life of the plant seems far-fetched. Unlike solar energy, wind farms in India are concentrated in a few high wind States such as Tamil Nadu, Maharashtra, Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh, Gujarat and Rajasthan. Even within these States, only selective sites offer high wind energy potential.

The Indian market is moving towards adopting higher capacity wind energy generators (WTGs) with hub height of more than 100 metres. Global players such as GE have come out with advanced technology turbines designed to offer increased swept area, facilitating higher generation in low wind density sites. While this will improve the project economics for developers, implementation remains largely untested.

Alternatively, lower PLFs need to be compensated by either cutting down the project cost substantially, or by obtaining best deals for operation and maintenance (O&M) of the wind turbines, or by locking-in low cost funds, most often a combination of all of these. Clearly, higher capacity wind turbines are going to come at a cost and there are limitations to the concessions that can be obtained from O&M players.

Despite the interest rate cuts and falling MCLRs of banks, securing low cost funding in today’s market will largely depend on promoter strength and credit rating. Without a substantial database of PLFs of 35 per cent available in India today and given the first time deployment of next generation wind turbines, lenders, having burnt their fingers more than once, might choose to play it safe this time around.

Solar was a different story

Unlike Ultra Mega Solar Parks (UMSP), for the SECI wind projects, project land and evacuation infrastructure up to the point of interconnection at the ISTS need to be put up by the developers. In India, these things come at a cost. Right or wrong, these unstated costs need to be factored in the project cost estimates.

Further, the drop in prices of WTGs has been very different from what has been seen in solar power. Since 2009, solar PV module prices have fallen by 80 per cent as compared to a 30-40 per cent fall in wind turbine prices. Solar module costs fell by about 26 per cent in 2016 alone and are likely to fall further this year, due to oversupply in the Chinese and European markets. Considering the low lead time in procuring solar panels and low time required for commissioning, the bidders for Rewa UMSP would have had sufficient buffer to factor in another round of drop in solar module prices.

No such cushion is available for wind. Bidders would have had to rely upon pre-bid tie ups with WTG manufacturers to work out their project cost estimates. In a way, the aggressive bidding would have trickled backwards and caused a fair share of competition among turbine manufacturers.

More uncertainties loom

From April 1, 2017, the tax relaxation for infrastructure projects under 80IA shall cease. Further, wind power plants commissioned after this financial year will not be eligible for generation based incentives. Accelerated depreciation will reduce from 80 per cent to 40 per cent.

Also, the cloud of uncertainties that the implementation of GST poses needs to be factored for any reasonable viability assessment. Most wind turbines are domestically made. Currently, there is no excise duty to be paid for WTGs and renewable energy components attract a VAT of 0-5 per cent in most States. According to a report published by the Ministry of New and Renewable Energy, GST is likely to cause an increase of 11-15 per cent in project cost of wind power projects.

One can only hope that all these risks were adequately factored by the bidders. This kind of aggressive bidding is not new to us. Starting from BoT road projects awarded a decade back, to coal mining, telecom spectrum and more recently, solar power and hybrid annuity model (HAM) projects in the road sector, this issue has been ingrained in the system.

While it is good to see such investor interest in India’s infrastructure space, it is absolutely essential to tread carefully. Let us not forget all the BoT projects which became distressed assets in the books of lenders due to optimistic traffic projections or higher revenue shares promised during a competitive bidding war.

View original post on Hindu Business Line: http://www.thehindubusinessline.com/opinion/wind-power-bids-in-india-are-unrealistic/article9618027.ece

New material may double solar cell efficiency

Washington, Apr 9 (PTI) In a breakthrough, scientists have identified a new crystalline material that could replace silicon and double the efficiency of solar cells without a significant cost increase.

Conventional solar cells are at most one-third efficient, a limit known to scientists as the Shockley-Queisser Limit.

The new material, a crystalline structure that contains both inorganic materials (iodine and lead) and an organic material (methyl-ammonium), boosts the efficiency so that it can carry two-thirds of the energy from light without losing as much energy to heat.

This material identified by researchers at Purdue University and the National Renewable Energy Laboratory in the US could double the amount of electricity produced without a significant cost increase.

Enough solar energy reaches the Earth to supply all of the planets energy needs multiple times over, but capturing that energy has been difficult ? as of 2013, only about one per cent of the worlds grid electricity was produced from solar panels.

Libai Huang, assistant professor of chemistry at Purdue, said the new material, called a hybrid perovskites, would create solar cells thinner than conventional silicon solar cells, and is also flexible, cheap and easy to make.

The most common solar cells use silicon as a semiconductor, which can transmit only one-third of the energy because of the band gap, which is the amount of energy needed to boost an electron from a bound state to a conducting state, in which the electrons are able to move, creating electricity.

Incoming photons can have more energy than the band gap, and for a very short time ? so short it is difficult to imagine ? the electrons exist with extra energy.

These electrons are called “hot carriers,” and in silicon they exist for only one picosecond (which is 10-12 seconds) and only travel a maximum distance of 10 nanometres.

At this point the hot carrier electrons give up their energy as heat. This is one of the main reasons for the inefficiency of solar cells.

Huang and her colleagues have developed a new technique that can track the range of the motion and the speed of the hot carriers by using fast lasers and microscopes.

“The distance hot carriers need to migrate is at least the thickness of a solar cell, or about 200 nanometres, which this new perovskite material can achieve,” Huang said.

“Also these carriers can live for about 100 picoseconds, two orders of magnitude longer than silicon,” he said.

Kai Zhu, senior scientist at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory in Colorado, said that these are critical factors for creating a commercial hot-carrier solar cell.

“This study demonstrated that hot carriers in a standard polycrystalline perovskite thin film can travel for a distance that is similar to or longer than the film thickness required to build an efficient perovskite solar cell,” he said.

“This indicates that the potential for developing hot carrier perovskite solar cell is good,” Zhu added.

The research was published in the journal Science.

 

View original post on India Today: http://indiatoday.intoday.in/

The UK’s electrical grid is so overrun with renewable power, it may pay wind farms to stop producing it

Generating electricity from the sun and wind is great for the planet, but the infrastructure necessary to deal with these intermittent power sources is tricky. Too much or too little power can upset the balance of the grid, which has to be finely tuned to keep the voltage of the electricity it delivers to customers stable.

Without a means of storing renewable energy or handling huge variations in production, too much electricity surging into the grid can damage appliances or even cause outages. This is the problem that the UK may face this summer, the country’s grid operator says. When electricity demand naturally falls during the summer months, it is thinking about paying wind farms to stop generating so much power.

For the past few years, the UK has been ramping up renewable-energy production—especially wind power—in order to reduce its carbon emissions. Government subsidies have also encouraged homes and businesses to install rooftop solar panels, which can bypass the grid altogether.

Meanwhile, National Grid, which manages the UK’s electricity network, has been trying to update its aging infrastructure. Ofgem, the UK’s energy regulator, estimates that payments to balance electricity generation when it gets out of whack—either too much or too little to meet demand, from both renewable and (mostly) fossil-fuel generators—ran to about £354 million ($540 million) in 2015, or less than 1% of energy bills.

This summer, National Grid estimates that maximum and minimum energy demand from utilities is likely to fall to an all-time low (paywall). Peak demand is predicted to be 35.7 gigawatts, compared with 37.5 gigawatts in 2015, and minimum demand to be 18.1 gigawatts, compared with 18.4 gigawatts in 2015.

The UK’s electricity consumption has been falling in recent years. Some of the decline was down to the financial crisis, in addition to increased energy efficiency at homes and businesses, according to a National Grid spokesman.

Reduced energy demand and more prevalent renewable power is a good combination for the climate, but a headache for grid operators. These staid businesses are scrambling to balance their grids in response to a rapid energy transition. In the meantime, they may have to keep paying some power plants for, in effect, not doing their job.

 

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The Underachieved Solar Target Of FY17, What Went Wrong?

While the industry is cheering on the record-breaking wind capacity addition for the year for FY17, we still fall behind in our solar targets, which has been the government’s favourite child

 

While the industry is cheering on the record-breaking wind capacity addition for the year for FY17, we still fall behind in our solar targets, which has been the government’s favourite child.

As per the official data of the Union ministry of new and renewable energy (MNRE), against the targeted 12,000 MW (10,500 MW ground-mounted and 1500 MW rooftop solar) for grid-connected solar projects in 2016-17, 5,525.98 MW has been achieved. Cumulative solar capacity currently stands at 12,288.83 MW, against 6,762.85 MW as compared to the last fiscal, which is a great news for the solar industry overall and is impressive even if it falls short of the target.

However, let’s talk about what happened to this particular fiscal’s target. Was 12000 MW too ambitious for this fiscal or things didn’t go as planned by the officials.

According to Amit Kumar Kadam, Partner, Renewables, PwC, the target of 12000 MW for solar was made on certain assumptions, one of the biggest being the solar parks, which failed to get operational by 2016.

5000-6000 MW capacity addition was expected to come from solar parks. Two to three solar parks were already operational but the rest didn’t take off as per the desired target. The main issue was the infrastructure which was not ready”, says Kumar.

Outside the solar parks comes the Rooftop segment(1500 MW target) which didn’t get the desired push especially from the DISCOMs. “The single most important reason for the underachievement of the renewable targets in the last fiscal year is the dismal performance in the solar rooftop segment. Economic reasons such as no economies of scale in rooftop and non-economic reasons such as poor contract enforceability, poor implementation of net metering policies by state agencies etc. are some of the major reasons behind the shortfall in the rooftop targets”, says Manu Agarwal, Research Analyst, Centre for Energy, Environment and Water.

Kumar says the DISCOMs need financial incentives to encourage rooftop installations which would alleviate their concerns about loss of profitable customers and additional network investments.

The third major concern is the PPA signing and biddings which didn’t happen as anticipated. According to Girishkumar Kadam, VP, Corporate Sector Ratings, ICRA and Power Sector Lead, the 2016-17 target for solar faced shortfall owing to the delays in tendering and PPA signing process. “There was a temporary lull in the sector post-Rewa. The authorities would be re-evaluating the project structure and there is going to be a bidding delay in the next fiscal as well”.

“Post the tender, the winning developers should be awarded the LOA (Letter of Award) in 5 months and the PPA should be signed in the next 1 month, but that didn’t happen. The same scenario cannot be predicted for the next set of targets”, says Kadam.

There is now a downward concern, according to Kumar. The DISCOMs want a replication of what happened at the Rewa auction and are hesitant in signing the PPAs at tariffs higher that Rewa. All experts are of an opinion that Rewa was a result of unique conditions of land, payments, subsidies, created by the state which led to those record tariffs, a pure plug and play.
Raj Prabhu, CEO, Mercom Capital Group voices another hurdle of RPO Compliance and government policies which hindered this year’s solar target, “The 12,000 MW goal was pretty aggressive but the government agencies were not equipped to handle it. Power demand is lacking and some states have to curtail power as there is no demand. Every time there is a new low bid, tender activity freezes as all states want the bids to get down to those levels. I think the investors and renewable energy companies are ready to invest and execute projects but hurdles are in the government machinery.”

Going forward, Kumar says the sector could land into trouble post-2018 when we touch almost 20% of the installed capacity in solar. ” There are major challenges- Grid stabilisation, Spinning reserves and storage. Who will incur the cost of all three?. India is in no position for storage innovation as we are dependent on countries like Japan for technology breakthrough.”

“Getting to 175 GW by 2022 will be tough, it is a very aggressive target. The issue is, these targets are set to top-down from the central government without figuring out how states will be able to achieve this. DISCOM financials are in shambles and most would rather cut power than purchase and supply it to the customer”, says Prabhu who terms the next 2 years crucial to see if the states can handle higher renewable generation.

However, Sabyasachi Majumdar, Senior Vice President, ICRA is optimistic of the overall targets and set up the government and predicts 7-7.5 GW of capacity addition for solar in 2018, amidst a very strong project pipeline via NSM (National Solar Mission) route. “A lot is under implementation. We should look at these targets from year to year basis. All the capacities for FY17 should be commissioned and the shortfall in the target should be made up in the next fiscal”, says Sabhya.

Of the 5,526 MW added, only 2,803.77 MW had been commissioned till February end, but it was followed by a spurt of more than 2,700 MW in March 2017, which shows how the government is speeding up on its targets just in time to beat the year-end deadline.

Amidst all, the experts hail both centre and state specific policies giving momentum to the renewable energy, besides some unattended areas. “Under the national solar mission, the projects awarded via SECI have increased tremendously with amendments in the national tariff policy as well. The states have coined their own region-specific policies and targets showing active interests in bids and RPO targets”, says Girish.

The targets of the government might seem too ambitious but aiming for the moon will at least make you land on the stars. 12,288.83 MW of cumulative capacity against 6,762.85 MW compared to the last fiscal, being this FY17’s shining star.

 

View original post on Business World: http://businessworld.in/article/The-Underachieved-Solar-Target-Of-FY17-What-Went-Wrong-/11-04-2017-116155/

Solar tenders, auctions slowing down in India: Report

While solar installations in India have picked up speed, tenders and auctions have been slowing down over the past couple of quarters, according to a Mercom Capital report. About 1.9 GW of solar power was tendered in Q1 2017 (1 GW of this was a retender) compared to 3.4 GW in Q4 last year. There was 1.3 GW of solar projects auctioned in Q1 2017 compared to 255 MW in Q4 2016. The slowdown in activity has been disconcerting to developers and manufacturers who have been gearing up for more activity based on India’s solar installation goal of 100 GW by 2022.

As per the target set by the government, India needs to instal 18 GW of solar power every year till 2022. If the government wants to meet its solar installation goals, the pace of tenders and auctions must pick up quickly. Companies, who have invested hundreds of millions to expand to meet the demand and build projects, are anxiously waiting for the activity to pick up.

 

According to the report, “Some of the reasons for decline in tender and auction activity include poor financial condition of distribution companies (DISCOMs), transmission issues, weaker power demand and increases in captive generation by commercial and industrial companies. DISCOMs that are continuing to struggle financially are not taking on new generation that is more expensive than coal, which is leading to curtailment of solar and wind projects as well as payment delays to developers.”

The World Trade Organization (WTO) ruling against India’s domestic content requirement (DCR) has resulted in continuous cancellations and postponements of planned DCR tenders.

“In some states, weak power demand is removing the urgency to speed up the pace of solar tenders and auctions. Increases in captive generation by industrial customers have compounded the situation since they are requiring less power generation from DISCOMs,” the report adds.

The recent record low bid of Rs 3.30 (approximately $0.494)/kWh at the REWA solar park auction is playing a big role in the slowdown of auction activity as government agencies and states are stalling to renegotiate PPAs that are more expensive than the bids received at REWA.

For DISCOMs, coal is still the cheapest option available.  According to Mercom’s December Solar Quarterly Report, DISCOMs have resorted to sporadic curtailment from some solar projects in Rajasthan and Tamil Nadu because cheaper power is available on the power exchanges. Even when there is demand, several states have complained that the DISCOMs are resorting to power cuts instead of buying power on the exchanges to save on costs.

Several other developers told Mercom that as of now Bihar, Jharkhand, Tamil Nadu, Rajasthan and Maharashtra are the problem states. According to Mercom’s Solar Project Tracker, tendering activity has declined in these states with most of the old tenders being continually extended.

 

“We hope this is a short-term issue which, once resolved, will see tariffs get down to realistic levels and there will be a big spurt in activity. However, if some of these pressing issues are not resolved quickly, growth will stall,” said Raj Prabhu, CEO of Mercom Capital Group. “There needs to be a policy mechanism put in place to avoid the stop and start in tender activity every time there is an outlier in terms of a low bid. However, if states revise their tenders to include all of the positive aspects of the REWA tender, it can be a win-win for all,” he added.

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