The Ministry of New and Renewable Energy (MNRE) plans to seek the Union Cabinet’s nod for doubling the capacity of solar parks to 40,000 MW from 20,000 MW. Also the country is to install 700 MW of rooftop PV in 2016 – all of which sounds great on paper. Asked to elaborate on challenges that the industry may encounter along the way and for suggestions, Aditya Ravindran said,
- Reducing the target of rooftop solar PV and apportioning it to solar parks has been a wise move. Although, there is good activity in the solar rooftop space, the scale of these projects is too small to help achieve the erstwhile target of 40 GW. On the other hand, solar parks are complete opposites of this. These are large capacity projects, and 40 GW of capacity addition could be done with much less number of projects.
- The only challenge before such projects would be to assess and counter the impact of massive variability in generation on the regional power grids.”
Asked to elaborate on challenges that the industry may encounter along the way, an India Power spokesperson said, “India has embarked on an ambitious target of 100 GW of solar power by 2022. The target seems difcult but it can be achieved. In order to achieve it, many challenges will need to be overcome. Some of these challenges are:
1. Lack of policy and regulatory support
2. Issues with respect to grid automation and stability
3. High cost of energy storage
4. Lack of skilled manpower for installation and O&M
5. Manufacturing of low cost solar modules and accessories.
The World Trade Organisation (WTO) recently ruled against India’s domestic content requirement (DCR) policy for solar cells and modules. The case against India was originally fled in 2013, following the announcement of DCR in JNNSM Phase II policy and after India decided to fle an anti-dumping case against US, China, Malaysia and Taiwan. Currently, there is a pipeline of 925 MW of solar works to be auctioned under DCR. Asked about ramifcations of the WTO ruling on India, Aditya Ravindran said,
- Indian solar space is largely dependent on imports from South East Asia and North America, and it cannot go against the verdict of the WTO. The only options remaining with the government and regulatory bodies is to look for alternative measures to promote domestic manufacturing in the solar industry.”
About ramifcations of the WTO ruling on India, an India Power spokesperson said, “The US is of the opinion that India’s domestic content requirements were inconsistent with WTO rules that prohibit discrimination against imported products. Under the solar mission, solar power developers are mandated to use Indianmanufactured cells and modules rather than US or other imported solar technology that the US considered a breach of international trade rules. This result in favour of US will boost sales of American solar modules into India as American solar exports to India have fallen by more than 90% during this period. However, the Indian government wants to boost solar module manufacturing in India and for that reason only they had mandated that solar power developers should use Indian-manufactured cells and modules.”
RE vs thermal?
Power sector analysts have warned that the unprecedented surge in renewable energy capacity in the next few years will aﬀect thermal power plants. At a time when thermal power plants are operating at an all-time low of just over 50% of their capacities, there is a debate whether the country really needs the planned addition of 175 GW of renewable energy by 2022. Also Partha Bhattacharyya, former Coal India Chairman reportedly said that the solar wind focus has hit low-cost coal-based power production. About whether the renewable energy push will adversely aﬀect thermal power plants, Aditya Ravindran said,
- India is pushing ahead for renewable energy capacity addition without any profound emphasis on energy storage systems. Neither does our power system have any signifcant capacity of peaking power plants. In the absence of storage and quick-acting power plants, generation capacity at base load power plants would have to be kept on standby as spinning reserves. Not only is it inefcient and polluting, but the frequent ramping up and down of the power plant’s output also aﬀects its health and life.”
About whether RE will aﬀect thermal power plants, an India Power spokesperson said, “The renewable energy push will defnitely adversely aﬀect thermal power plants. There is variation in the production of electricity from renewable energy sources. On an all-India scale, coal-fred plants provide a steady output in order to meet what is called the base load while gas-fred plants and hydro plants with storage manage to respond to variations in demand. If the addition of renewable energy continues, dependability on the thermal power plant will reduce and it will be forced to run the thermal power plant at a lower PLF.”