CSIR’s CMERI, NISE sign pact for boosting association in solar power sector

Source: Business Standard, Sept 08, 2020

New Delhi: The Central Mechanical Engineering Research Institute (CMERI), Durgapur, and the National Institute of Solar Energy (NISE), Gurgaon, have signed an MoU, a ‘strategic association’, to bolster the solar energy sector, a statement said on Tuesday.

The MoU was signed on Monday by Prof Harish Hirani, Director, Council for Scientific and Industrial Research’s (CSIR)-CMERI, Durgapur, and Arun Kumar Tripathy, Director-general, NISE.

CMERI has expertise in design and development of various capacity solar artefacts for multifaceted uses ranging from fulfilling localised energy demand to boosting agricultural sector for irrigation, solar powered agro dryer, decentralised solar cold storage, charging of battery operated agricultural machineries.

“Its expertise in the domain of solar converter and conditioning unit and isolated mini-grid will also aid this collaboration. The institute is currently working on the development of a solar energy based cooking system which will help in creating an energy reliant and carbon-neutral India in addition to the upliftment of the livelihood of the rural sector in India,” the statement said.

NISE, a centre of excellence of the Union Ministry of New and Renewable Energy is engaged in solar photovoltaic/thermal R&D, testing, demonstration projects, skill development, consultancy, innovation and incubation.

The MoU is intended to conduct joint field studies for different solar technologies, skill development of stakeholders. The pact also intends to carry out policy and regulatory studies dealing with grid integration, recycling and disposal of solar panels, batteries, and also collaborate with international level research institutions for undertaking research work in India, the statement said.

Andhra Pradesh to float India’ largest solar tender for 10 GW capacity

Source: LiveMint.com, Sept 07, 2020

NEW DELHI: In a surprise move, the Y.S. Jagan Mohan Reddy-led Andhra Pradesh government is expediting efforts to float India’s largest solar tender for setting up 10 gigawatt (GW) capacity, said three people aware of the development.

Interestingly, the mega tender accounting for 14% of India’s green energy capacity to supply electricity to the farmers is in the works, even as 5.2 GW of solar and wind energy projects are hanging fire, due to the state government’s decision to reopen renewable energy contracts inked under the previous N Chandrababu Naidu government.

State energy secretary N. Srikanth confirmed the mega solar tender development and said that Andhra Pradesh Green Energy Corporation Ltd (APGECL) is the nodal agency for the same.

Under flak from the Union government and global investors such as Goldman Sachs, Brookfield, SoftBank, Canada Pension Plan Investment Board, Caisse de dépôt et placement du Québec, JERA Co. Inc., GIC Holdings Pte Ltd, Global Infrastructure Partners, CDC Group Plc, EverSource Capital and World Bank’s International Finance Corp., the government has mandated state-owned APGECL to call for this mega solar bid that will entail a ₹35,000 crore investment.

These marquee firms had invested in Indian companies, including ReNew Power, Greenko, Adani Power, PTC India Ltd, SB Energy, Mytrah and Hero Future Energies that have set up projects in Andhra Pradesh. The state government’s controversial decision not only drew criticism from the Centre, but also from the governments of France, Canada and Japan since the investments had invested in Indian companies made by their firms in the state’s clean energy space.

“We will call bids based on land getting ready,” said a senior state government official cited above requesting anonymity.

This proposed mega contract also comes at a time, when India’ solar power tariffs have touched a record low of ₹2.36 per unit at an auction conducted by state-run Solar Energy Corporation of India Ltd. Falling clean power tariffs putting an already awarded 16.8 GW solar and wind energy capacity in limbo, as fund starved state electricity distribution companies (discoms) are unwilling to sign contracts for these previously awarded projects at a comparatively higher tariff, Mint reported earlier. Also, the Punjab government is seeking to renegotiate clean energy contracts for operational projects.

“The RFP (request for proposal) for 10,000 MW will be floated shortly,” said a second person aware of the development cited above who also didn’t want to be named.

Andhra Pradesh has around 7.7 GW of solar and wind projects and is home to India’s second-largest installed capacity of clean energy, accounting for around 10% of the country’s green energy capacity, with investments of ₹60,000 crore. The state has 4,092 MW of installed wind power projects awarded through feed-in tariffs. Also, the resource-rich state has 3,230 MW of solar power projects awarded through competitive bidding.

“The state government is trying to resolve the problems associated with the earlier clean energy PPAs,” said the second person.

The state discoms reduced the contractually approved tariff under the power purchase agreement (PPA) to ₹2.44 per unit for solar projects and ₹2.43 per unit for wind projects since July 2019; and informed the developers that in the event of them not agreeing to the revised tariffs, the PPAs would be terminated.

This tariff renegotiation by the AP government was challenged by the developers and the dispute is currently before the Andhra Pradesh high court. While setting aside the state government’s order, the high court directed the discom to make payment at the reduced interim tariff of ₹2.44 per unit for wind projects and Rs. 2.43 per unit for solar projects respectively, until the issue is resolved by the Andhra Pradesh State Electricity Regulatory Commission.

The state government’s move led to the Centre pitching to set up an Electricity Contract Enforcement Authority to ensure that conditions in PPAs are followed, through the draft amendments to the Electricity Act, 2003. The Centre has been trying to find a solution to the issue. These include state-run NTPC Ltd offering to buy 300 MW of green power from Andhra Pradesh to broker a truce, as reported by Mint on 2 January.

The mega tender also comes at a time when the Centre plans to take strict action against green energy firms and their promoters feigning the covid-19 as an excuse to exit projects that they were awarded. This comes in the backdrop of some wind-energy developers seeking ‘low-cost exit options’ i.e. termination of their PPAs without encashment of bank guarantees, for unviable projects. The government plans to not only blacklist such companies, but also censure their promoters, preventing them from taking part in future projects. Clean energy projects comprise more than a fifth of India’s installed power generation capacity. India has 34.6 GW of solar power and seeks to produce 100 GW from solar projects by March 2022.

Greenko and NTPC to partner for supplying on-demand green energy

Source: LiveMint.com, Aug 25, 2020

New Delhi: In what may help bring down the electricity price for consumers and provide on-demand power from wind and solar projects, Hyderabad-based Greenko Energies Pvt Ltd plans to partner with state run NTPC Ltd to develop ‘round-the-clock’ power supply.

This assumes significance given that solar and wind are infirm sources of energy, with storage holding the key to providing on-demand electricity from wind and solar projects. Till now, electricity distribution companies (discoms) had the option to procure power either from clean energy projects or coal and gas fuelled projects, with each having their own pros and cons, in terms of reliability and flexibility.

Greenko is among India’s largest green energy developers with a 6.4 gigawatt (GW) portfolio and is building power storage projects with total capacity of 7.2 GW across six states in India. While NTPC runs the largest fleet of coal based capacity in India, Greenko’ integrated renewable energy assets with storage, will help it provide clean energy during peak grid demand.

According to GIC Holdings Pte. Ltd and Abu Dhabi Investment Authority (ADIA) backed Greenko, the pumped hydro storage projects, “shall be one of the lowest cost storage solutions at around 85 USD/ MWh compared to battery storage systems, currently being imported primarily from China, at around 200 USD/ MWh (forecasted to reached 100 USD/ MWh by 2030) with limited life cycles.”

This comes at a time when India’s largest power generation utility NTPC is planning a green energy push and is looking to acquire at least 1000 mega watt (MW) of operational solar power projects, as part of its strategy to have a 32 GW clean energy portfolio by 2032. NTPC currently has a 2,298 MW renewable energy projects under construction.

“The value proposition of the potential offering will be to meet the evolving bespoke requirements of Discoms and other power consumers in India in real-time. Affordable energy storage is critical to the sustained growth of renewables, grid balancing and address limited generation flexibility in the Indian energy market,” the Greenko statement said.

This comes in the backdrop of India running what will become the world’s largest clean energy programme with an aim of having 175 GW of clean energy capacity by 2022 as part of its global climate change commitments. Green energy projects now account for more than a fifth of India’s installed power generation capacity of 370 GW.

“Greenko Energies Pvt Ltd (Greenko) and NTPC Vidyut Vyapar Nigam Ltd. (NVVN), a wholly owned subsidiary of NTPC Limited – India’s largest power generation with generation fleet in excess of 60 GW and transitioning into Renewables, have entered into an MOU with an intent to explore possibility of development of Renewable Energy (RE) based RTC, flexible and despatchable power supply offering based on integration of RE sources and Pumped Storage projects,” Greenko statement said. This also comes at a time, when India’ solar power tariffs have touched a record low of ₹2.36 per unit at an auction conducted by state-run Solar Energy Corporation of India Ltd. Falling clean power tariffs putting an already awarded 16.8 GW solar and wind energy capacity in limbo, Mint reported earlier. Fund starved state electricity distribution companies (discoms) are unwilling to sign contracts with intermediary procurers such as SECI, for these previously awarded projects at a comparatively higher tariff.

India’s solar power story disrupted as renewable energy finds no buyers

Source: Financial Express, Aug 25, 2020

India’s solar power story has been largely creditable, with a rapid pace of capacity addition and competitive tariffs being discovered, but several adversities including reluctance of discoms to sign power supply agreements (PSAs) are threatening to disrupt it.

Nearly a third of the 23,600 megawatt (MW) renewable power projects, won by various players after quoting the lowest rates in reverse auctions conducted by the Solar Energy Corporation of India (SECI) for inter-state transmission system (ISTS), are staring at an uncertain future as the agency has not yet found buyers for electricity from these solar/wind power generation units. Most of these are under-construction units; only 2,200 MW of the awarded capacity has been commissioned till date.

Project developers also grapple with other issues such as unavailability of land and inadequate power transmission infrastructure, leading to inordinate delays. The investments involved in the stuck projects with combined capacity of 8,000 mw is roughly Rs 36,000 crore at Rs 4.5 crore per MW.

Projects facing uncertainty due to lack of buyers include those backed by global players like the UK’s CDC-(Ayana Renewable), Netherland’s Avaada Energy, French utility Engie (Betam Wind), New York-based Eden Renewables, SoftBank Group, Hong Kong based UPC Renewables (Masaya Solar), Italy’s Enel (Avikiran Surya), Germany’s Ib Vogt, Spain’s Solarpack Corporacion and the Canada-based Amp Energy Green.

SECI has also not found buyers for power from some units of local players like ReNew Power, Azure Power and Adani Green Energy.

According to data compiled by the Central Electricity Authority, SECI has not been able to sign PSAs with any state discom for 5,840 MW of solar and 920 MW of ISTS wind power projects. SECI being the national aggregator of renewable energy, signs power purchase agreements (PPAs) with the winning developers in competitive auctions, and subsequently inks PSAs with states to supply electricity from these plants.

In fact, as much as 1,665 MW of renewable power projects (Acme: 600 MW, Torrent: 500 MW, Mytrah: 300 MW and ReNew: 265 MW) have sought to terminate their PPAs, frustrated by delays caused by other parties, in spite of SECI finding buyers of electricity from these projects.

The impact of the coronavirus outbreak on the supply chain has also been cited as a cause of the demand for PPA cancellations.

Industry trackers have pointed that the ultra-low tariff quoted by some of the firms might not be viable anymore amid time overruns, leading to termination of contracts.

SECI’s competitive bidding rounds for ISTS projects have been instrumental in bringing down renewable energy power costs in the country as the Central government-backed agency utilised the economies of scale by conducting reverse auctions for large capacities. It also allowed solar and wind power plants to be installed in conducive locations anywhere in the country and supply power to states with lower potential for renewable energy generation. While a section of the industry has blamed discoms for not signing PSAs in the hope of better deals in the future, experts have also pointed that SECI has conducted many auctions without assessing the states’ appetite for such unreliable and intermittent sources of power. The country has set a target to raise the capacity of installed renewable energy generation plants to 175 giga watt (GW) by the end of 2022. As on July 31, the installed renewable energy capacity was 88 GW. Around 34 GW is under various stages of implementation and 34.5 GW under various stages of bidding. If the 45.7 GW of hydro and 6.8 GW of nuclear capacities are included, the target under the Paris climate change accord of having 40% of installed power generation capacity from non-fossil fuel sources will be achieved by 2022 itself.

Tata Power to explore M&A opportunities in renewable energy space

Source: Business Standard, Aug 19, 2020

Mumbai: Tata Power, which plans to launch its renewable energy InvIT this fiscal, said it will also explore merger and acquisition opportunities to strengthen its position in this space.

According to an analyst presentation by the company, Tata Power, which is sitting on a debt of over Rs 43,000 crore, is eyeing Rs 9,000 crore revenues from its renewable energy operations by FY2025. The company plans to launch the infrastructure investment trust (InvIT) this fiscal, post which it will explore merger and acquisition opportunities, considering the fragmented nature of the sector and the potential assets available, the presentation said.

According to the presentation, the company’s total renewable energy portfolio stands at 4,152 MW, including 1,145 MW of solar assets under construction and another 370 MW won but awaiting letter of award.

Operational wind energy capacity is 932 MW. The company is also hoping to increase its total renewable energy portfolio to 15,000 MW by FY2025.

The private sector power producer hopes to achieve the target through organic and inorganic expansion.

For organic growth, the company is eyeing the demand pipeline and expected capacity addition through bids from central agencies like SECI and NTPC and select state bids which have good payment track record, it said.

For Tata Power, the restructuring of the renewable business into an InvIT is part of the divestment process to bring its debt to Rs 25,000 crore by end of this fiscal from Rs 43,578 crore as of March 31, 2020, the document said. The company has already embarked on the plans to clean its balance sheet by undertaking various debt reduction measures, including selling non-core assets.

The firm has already sold its stake in Cennergi Wind as well as ships owned by its Singapore subsidiary to raise around Rs 2,400 crore. Tata Power reported a 10 per cent increase in consolidated net profit to Rs 268 crore for quarter ended June on the back of reduced expenses.

During April-June, the company reported a total income of Rs 6,540 crore as compared to Rs 7,874 crore in the year-ago quarter.

No basic customs duty relief to SEZ solar manufacturing units yet; govt mulling equalisation levy

Source: The Economic Times, Aug 10, 2020

NEW DELHI: Solar equipment manufacturers who have their units in special economic zones (SEZs) said that they might have to shut shop if the government continues its proposal which would levy a basic customs duty on the value addition done at these plants.

However, in the last couple of interactions that the Ministry of New and Renewable Energy (MNRE), this issue has not moved beyond the government taking cognisance of this concern, said people present at the meetings.

“In the absence of a level playing field, domestic manufacturers in SEZs will have to shut shop and may see job losses to the tune of 15,000 people,” said Saibaba Vutukuri, CEO of Vikram Solar. These units can provide up to 400,000 more jobs in the country moving forward as the focus shifts to domestic manufacturing, Vutukuri added.

Per industry estimates, 63% of solar cell and 43% of solar module manufacturing capacity are located in SEZs.

While setting up their plants, SEZ units were allowed a one-time exemption on import duty on capital goods required to manufacture solar gear. They also enjoyed a rebate on the duty levied on electricity that was consumed for the operation of their manufacturing units which will not be affected by the basic customs duty. The electricity duty rebate works out to be Rs 17 per kilowatt peak (kWp). One solar panel with a peak power of 1kWp functioning at its maximum capacity will produce 1kWh.

To level the playing field, the government is mulling an “equalisation levy” between 1 to 2% on SEZ units, in case they are exempted from the customs duty.
“While BCD is a welcome move, the government must take necessary steps to protect the investments already made by the manufacturing facilities located in SEZ, hence ‘equalization levy’ was a fair solution,” said SL Agarwal, MD, Webel Solar.

In June, power and new & renewable energy minister RK Singh told reporters that the government plans to levy 15-20% duty that would rise to 40% in a year’s time, to reduce the solar industry’s dependence on China. About 80% of solar imports come from China.

Centre extends duty on Chinese solar goods

Source: LiveMint.com, Jul 31, 2020

NEW DELHI: India has levied import duties on solar cells and panels from China, among some items, for hurting domestic producers by allegedly dumping products, in the latest move against the northern neighbour following a deadly border clash in June. The items also include digital offset printing plates, and a raw material used in making industrial chemicals.

The revenue department notified continuation of the duty on solar cells and panels for another year and imposed definitive anti-dumping duty on import of digital offset printing plates and provisional anti-dumping duty on aniline oil used in making certain industrial chemicals. The decisions were announced in three separate orders late Wednesday night.

The extension of the safeguard duty on solar cells and panels follows the expiry of the existing safeguard duty on the item on 29 July.

The government order said the safeguard duty is to be paid on these items at a rate of 14.9% for the first six months and at 14.5% for the remaining six months. Exporters will be given relief from the safeguard duty to the extent of any anti-dumping duty paid on the items. The duty also applies to imports from Thailand and Vietnam but excludes imports from any other developing nation.

After the June border clash in which 20 Indian army personnel died, New Delhi has banned dozens of Chinese smartphone apps, ordered e-commerce firms to display country of origin on the products on their platforms, and banned companies from China from bidding for government contracts without specific approval from competent authorities.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi has advocated self-reliance as a growth strategy, which is also aimed at weaning away Indian producers from over-dependence on Chinese raw materials, especially in sectors like automobiles, pharmaceuticals and electronics. In the case of digital offset printing plates, the anti-dumping duty is also applicable to imports from select companies from Japan, Republic of Korea, Taiwan and Vietnam at specified rates.

India steps up efforts for setting up one solar city in every state and UT

Source: LiveMint.com, Jul 27, 2020

As firms look to move production lines out of China, the Centre has asked all states and Union territories (UTs) to identify one city each out of a national list of 60 cities, whose entire electricity needs would be met through rooftop solar power, said two people aware of the development.

This will not only add heft to India’ green energy credentials but will also help create demand for a solar equipment manufacturing ecosystem for ingots, wafers, cells and modules; that the country desperately needs.

This solar power demand creation also ties in with India’ efforts to become an integral part of the global supply chains, as firms look to move production lines out of China, due to the disruptions caused by the coronavirus pandemic.

According to the government documents reviewed by Mint, the Uttar Pradesh government had identified Prayagraj that hosts the Kumbh Mela, the largest global human congregation, to be one of these marquee solar cities; as part of ministry of new and renewable energy’ (MNRE) ‘Development of Solar City Programme’.

“States/UTs have been requested by MNRE to identify one city from the list or otherwise, for solarisation,” said a person cited above who did not want to be named.

A total of 60 such solar cities were identified across India in consultation with the state governments, that also included five model cities and 13 pilot cities, for which the states were given financial assistance to prepare a master plan.

In a review of the ministry of new and renewable energy on 27 May, Prime Minister Narendra Modi had called for each state to have at least one such ‘solar city’.

The master plan includes projection of energy demand for the next 10 years, renewable energy addition, increased use of energy efficient electrical equipment, awareness generation and setting up of solar city cell.

Going forward, a senior district or electricity distribution company (discom) officials will be nominated for each such solar city wherein rooftops may also be leveraged for commercial, industrial, institutional and government sector. Also, off-grid solar applications such as street lights and large ground mounted solar plants may be constructed on public land through Renewable Energy Service Company (RESCO) model involving no capital expenditure.

Under a RESCO model, a firm such as state-owned Energy Efficiency Services Ltd (EESL) makes the entire upfront investment. Given the revenue model, it gets paid from the savings accrued on account of saving energy costs.

“This scheme has been leveraged for this solarisation exercise of all the residential households,” said a second person cited above requesting anonymity.

Queries emailed to a MNRE spokesperson remained unanswered.

Green energy projects now account for more than a fifth of India’s installed power generation capacity of 370 gigawatt (GW). India has 34.6 GW of solar power and with an ambitious capacity expansion plan to achieve 100 GW solar capacity by 2022.

New Delhi has also stepped up efforts to ring fence its power sector from cheap Chinese imports and simultaneously leveraging International Solar Alliance (ISA), that it co-founded to land solar power project contracts in its member countries.

India is working on setting up the much needed solar wafer and ingot capacity and plans to come out with tenders that may provide for viability gap funding (VGF) to attract manufacturers. Wafers and ingots are the building blocks for manufacturing solar cells and modules, and are essential to India’s clean energy plans. Globally, solar wafer and ingot manufacturing is dominated by China.

The Union government is also exploring a plan whether an entire city’ mass transportation system such as buses can be run on hydrogen and use battery storage, provided the per km cost of operations is equal to or less than conventional fuel sources such as diesel. According to the preliminary contours of the proposed plan, two such cities’ transportation system will be bid out to run on a pilot basis using clean energy sources hydrogen and battery storage respectively.

NTPC floats tender to acquire 1 GW solar projects, to invest around Rs 5,000 crore

Source: The Economic Times, Jul 24, 2020

State-run power giant NTPC has floated a tender to acquire 1 GW operational solar projects, which entails an investment of around Rs 5,000 crore.

In a tender or request for proposal (RFP) issued on Friday, NTPC has invited bids from the promoters or lenders, authorised financial intermediaries of power generation companies, independent power producers or developers for offering operational solar based assets located in India.

The tender is expected to be finalised by October this year.

The document stated that in line with its long-term corporate plan, NTPC is taking various steps to make its energy portfolio greener by adding significant capacities of renewable energy (RE) sources.

By 2032, the company plans to have a minimum of 32 GW capacity through RE sources constituting nearly 25 per cent of its overall power generation capacity.

The RE portfolio of NTPC has ongoing capacity addition projects with around 2,298 MW projects under construction.
The company is also contemplating to increase its renewable generation capacity through acquisition of operation solar-based power assets located in India for a minimum capacity of 1 GW, it stated in the RFP.

The company can increase its power generation capacity instantly by going for inorganic growth or acquiring existing operational projects.

Setting up a solar project takes up to two years as per industry standards.

The company has a capital expenditure plan of Rs 21,000 crore for the current fiscal year, and most of it would be spent on adding new power generation capacities, it said.

For acquiring about 1 GW of operational solar power capacity, the company would have to shell out around Rs 5,000 crore as per back of the envelope calculations.

NTPC, formerly known as National Thermal Power Corporation, plans to be a 130 GW-company by 2032 with diversified fuel mix.

With a total installed capacity of 62,910 MW, the NTPC group has 70 power stations comprising of 24 coal, 7 combined cycle gas/liquid fuel, 1 hydro, 13 renewables along with 25 subsidiary and JV power stations.

Single-window clearance for renewable energy plans: Maharashtra

Source: LiveMint.com, Jul 23, 2020

MUMBAI: The Maharashtra government will give single-window clearance to renewable energy projects in a bid to move towards cleaner sources of energy, state Energy Minister Nitin Raut said on Thursday.

During a virtual meeting of the Indo-French Chamber of Commerce, Raut said the state government plans to implement solar power projects to reduce the dependency on thermal power.

Infertile land and plots of state-owned power companies will be made available for solar power projects, while uncultivated government land will also be used under green energy programmes, he said.

Proposals for these projects will be cleared in time through single-window system, the minister said.

The state government will study solar power projects in Rajasthan and Gujarat while framing its solar power policy, he added.

Earlier, Raut had asked Mahagenco to implement mega solar power projects in the state to reduce its dependency on conventional energy.