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

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Updated: Aug 25, 2020 9:27 AM

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

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.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.

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.

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