Green (renewable) energy: India, 1
This is a collection of articles archived for the excellence of their content.
Extent of usage of Green Energy in India
Solar power, Bio power and Hydropower in India
See graphic, ‘Solar power, Bio power and Hydropower in India…’
Targets Set and Achieved
Suzlon’s wind park, Maharashtra
April 13, 2015
New ways to encourage firms to switch to clean power will decide whether Modi government's ambitious renewable energy targets can be achieved
Tucked away 40 km from the city of Satara in Maharashtra is Vankusawade village, at the foot of a giant hill that is part of the Sahyadri mountain range. An hour-long drive from the city on a dusty road takes you closer to one of the largest wind power farms in Maharashtra. Most of it is run by wind power equipment maker Suzlon, which generates 231 MW from 571 wind turbines installed on the hill since 1999. Large corporate houses such as the Tata Group, the Bajaj Group, Dhariwal Industries and the Poonawalla Group own installations in Suzlon's wind park, the highest in India at 1,150 m above sea level.
The life of each machine, installed on 50-metre-high towers, is 20 years, which means Suzlon will soon start replacing them for newer models that can generate up to 1.25 MW each, much higher than the existing 350 KW. Suzlon Chairman Tulsi Tanti expects the re-farming to take the total capacity to 1,000 MW. This will be critical for the wind power major, which made losses of Rs 1,075 crore for the quarter ending December 2014 and sold its German arm, Senvion, in January this year to pay off part of a Rs 17,000-crore debt. Having refocused, the company is no longer eyeing smaller parks-Tanti says large parks give better returns over a longer period.
But balance sheets are minor stakeholders in the larger picture. According to clean energy entrepreneurs such as Tanti, the power produced using wind turbines, solar power, small hydro projects, or even biomass is critical to India's efforts to achieve self-sufficiency in energy and improving its credentials as a user of clean energy. As much as 58 per cent of the country's power is generated from coal, the dirtiest of all energy sources, compared to just 12 per cent from renewables. Of India's total power production of 243,000 MW in 2014, wind power had a share of around 22,500 MW, and solar just 3,000 MW. This despite India's large land mass receiving one of the high-est levels of solar exposure, making it ideal for solar projects, and its extensive coastline and high wind velocity making it apt to set up wind farms.
Setting sights high
The Ministry of New and Renewable Energy under the Narendra Modi government has an ambitious plan to generate 100,000 MW by 2022 from solar energy with investments of $100 billion, taking its share in the energy mix to 10 per cent. The target for wind power generation has been pegged at 60,000 MW in the same period. The Union Budget 2015-16 doubled the cess on coal to Rs 200 a tonne in order to fund clean-environment initiatives. At a renewable energy event, 'RE-Invest 2015', held in February 2015, the government claimed it has received 266,000 MW worth of green energy commitments from banks and other private firms. Experts such as Kuljit Singh, a partner with consulting firm Ernst & Young, however, take such announcements with a pinch of salt. "The government first needs to address issues of adequate power purchase agreements (PPAs) between the seller and the buyer of such ener-gy, make transmission infrastructure available to transport the power produced, and ensure the state electricity boards (SEBs) do not default on their payments," he says. SEBs have been straddled with losses of around Rs 2.5 lakh crore in 2014 due to rampant power theft and billing inefficiencies.
Reports say that the government's renewable energy goals will also be tested at the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change in October, where it needs to formally place targets for emission reduction to fight climate change. The government would then need to explain how much energy would be raised from renewable energy sources compared to those raised from burning coal, considered a top contributor to climate change. Sensing a big opportunity, a number of companies have announced plans to either enter the renewables segment or scale up their existing business.In February 2015, industrialist Gautam Adani-led Adani Group signed an MoU with the Rajasthan government for developing solar parks with a capacity of 10,000 MW over the next 10 years. The Anil Ambani-led Reliance Power has also announced plans to set up a 6,000 MW solar park in Rajasthan over the next 10 years. The $25-billion Hinduja Group has plans to generate 1,000 MW of power through solar projects, its Vice-Chairman Gopichand Hinduja said.
The first major step taken by India in favour of the renewable energy sector was in 2008 when the UPA government launched the National Action Plan on Climate Change. The plan identified eight core 'missions' through 2017, including the National Solar Mission. "Before this, sustainability or the issue of clean energy was never a part of our larger vision," says Vineet Mittal, co-founder and MD of Welspun Energy, which has already commissioned 328 MW of solar power in India and is implementing another 140 MW. A slew of policy initiatives followed, including notification of renewable purchase obligations making it compulsory for state power distribution companies to buy a certain percentage of their requirement from renewables.
Shying away from green power
Despite all these efforts, energy production using clean sources remains abysmally low. One of the major challenges faced by the renewables sector is the lack of adequate and appropriate financing options. For instance, scheduled banks are reluctant to lend to solar power projects, as it forms part of the power sector where the lending caps have already been exceeded in some cases. Moreover, government institutions such as the Power Finance Corporation and the Rural Electrification Corporation give loans at interest rates as high as 12.5 per cent to 13.5 per cent, making many projects unviable.
The industry is demanding that solar energy be made a priority sector and excluded from the conventional power sector with a different sectoral cap, so that banks are encouraged to lend to the sector. "If the government can allow the private sector to issue tax-free bonds, then companies will be able to access the larger pool of finance available in the country, and their cost of debt will be lower," says Mittal. Tanti suggests that financial institutions should earmark a portion of their lending corpus for renewable projects.
The other issue is the lack of incentive for industrial users to switch to non-conventional power. Take the case of solar power. It costs Rs 6.50 per unit compared to Rs 4.50 to Rs 5 per unit for power generated from coal. The government should encourage the use of renewable power by incentivising small and medium firms to draw power from clusters of wind and solar power, says Tanti, as the power is cleaner and uninterrupted. Ashish Khanna, CEO of Tata Power Solar, also stresses on the need to have large clusters. "Building a solar ecosystem through clusters will help in making the sector become self-sufficient and optimise the cost of infrastructure, making solar power more cost-effective," he says.
There is also a need to incentivise equipment manufacturers, who are bearing the brunt of cheap imports, especially in the solar sector. More than 90 per cent of solar panels come from China, where an excess production capacity of such panels have rendered them as much as 50 per cent cheaper compared to those made in India. However, the government is unlikely to put curbs on such imports as lower prices help proliferate the use of solar panels in a faster manner.
The government has set lofty goals for itself and the industry with Power Minister Piyush Goyal saying it will make India the world's renewable energy capital. But targets and slogans apart, the real issues that beg attention are creating an increased awareness, making renewable projects more viable, creating better financing options and having a plan that encourages the setting up of solar and wind power clusters to tap the country's full potential. Addressing those will be key to the country's progress to a green future and meeting its energy needs.