France and India Have A Crucial Partnership in Renewables: Mercom RE-Invest Session

National Hydrogen policy expected anytime in the next three to four months


The third global RE-Invest 2020, a three-day summit organized by the Ministry of New and Renewable Energy (MNRE), was inaugurated by Prime Minister Narendra Modi on November 26, 2020.

The year marks the fifth year of the Paris Climate Agreement and also the fifth anniversary of the launch of the International Solar Alliance (ISA)

Reiterating India’s status as a leading destination for investments in renewables, the Prime Minister said, “In the last six years, nearly ₹5 trillion (~$67 billion) investment has been made in the renewable energy sector in India. We want to make India a global manufacturing hub in the renewable energy sector.”

On the second day of the summit, the French Consulate in India held a session that discussed the growing importance of the Indo-French partnership in the renewable space. The session was moderated by Priya Sanjay, Managing Director of Mercom India.

H.E. Emmanuel Lenain, Ambassador of France to India, opened the session. In his keynote speech, he said that France and India have to play a critical role in the energy transition. He noted that leading French companies like Engie, TOTAL, and others were playing a crucial role in India’s renewable energy space, and the partnership would only increase in the future.

“The French companies have been involved in the renewable revolution in India, and the sector has come a long way in the last decade in the country. Over 5.5 GW of solar and 1 GW of wind capacity has been installed in the country with French collaboration. The French government is deeply committed to the support of Hydrogen and its use, and it has plans to invest nearly 7 billion euros for future collaboration between France and India,” added Lenain in his keynote address.

Opening the discussion, Jatin Nath Swain, Chairman and Managing Director of Solar Energy Corporation of India (SECI), said, “We are fortunate to have France as our partner in the ISA, and now we have roped in other countries to join the movement. Many French companies are now participating in SECI’s auction, and the future holds many good things for both countries. In India, SECI’s role is as a demand aggregator and intermediate procurer. Our role is to make the tenders as transparent as possible so that it creates an even playing field for everyone.”

“The recent Rajasthan auction where the tariff discovered was ₹2 (~$0.03)/kWh has created a new buzz in the market, and it shows the attractiveness of the renewable sector in the country. The Letter of Credit has been put in place, and the performance guarantee has been reduced. We have also implemented hybrid and round-the-clock tenders at lower tariffs, and we are all set to take such steps in the future,” he added.

Speaking on pumped storage, Jatin Swain said that France could help India develop pumped storage capacity. He also added a need to establish Hydrogen as an alternative source of energy as it beats battery storage in costs and has other benefits.

Also present at the session was Neerav Nanavaty, CEO and Country Manager of Engie India. He said that access to technology is the best way to meet the challenges in India. “The main roadblocks in India are land issues, energy security, and cost of energy. The government is doing its bit, and there is a need for relentless focus in execution (policy, tendering, evacuation of power, and financing) to give confidence to the developers. The convergence of local and national policies and an effective and efficient redressal mechanism is the need of the hour to take renewables to the next stage in India,” he added.

Speaking of Engie’s presence in India, he noted, “Engie has been in India for over three decades. It has around 1.5 GW of grid-scale projects across nine states in the country, and the company is planning to expand its base in the country.”

When asked about TOTAL’s decision to invest in India, Jose Ignacio SANZ, Vice President-Gas, Renewables, and Power-India, TOTAL, said, “We are traditionally a power and gas company, and we aim to become a broader energy company. India is a huge market, and it has huge energy needs, which makes India a natural choice. We are committed to promoting solar and renewables in the country. We formed a joint venture with Adani Green Energy Limited (AGEL) because of their active participation in the renewable space.”

Air Liquide, the French industrial gases and services company, has been in India since 1992. Bertrand Monnoie, CEO of Air Liquide India, said that biogas is an important and readily available renewable energy source, and it can be of great use in India.

“The purification and production of biomethane from waste agriculture products can be used for home warming solution or mobility. It can also solve the pollution problems, like the one which has gripped the capital region of Delhi. Biomethane can help reduce pollution and can play a big part in the energy transition,” he added.

Representing Agence française de développement (AFD) on the panel, Mathilde Bord-Laurans said that the agency’s main aim is to finance clean energy projects focusing on energy transition.

“Since 2008, the agency has invested nearly €2.8 billion (~$3.34 billion) in India in the renewable sector, out of which €1 billion (~$1.19 billion) have been for private firms. India’s energy future is important for the world, and we are well aware of this fact. It’s a two-way partnership as we learn many things from the execution of the projects. We are working closely with the Indian Renewable Energy Development Agency (IREDA) and SECI, and things are only going to get bigger soon,” she added.

Speaking on French Alternative Energies’ (CEA) activities in India, Thierry Priem, Head of Storage and Flexibility Solutions at CEA, said that the agency was mainly involved in research in the field of solar, storage, battery, and Hydrogen.

“Our main aim is to promote high-efficiency PV technology in India. We are also in the electric mobility arena. We are working closely with SECI and Blue Solutions (French EV manufacturer) to foster electric mobility growth in the country. We are also working on demo projects to utilize Hydrogen as a source of energy,” he noted.

When asked about TOTAL’s plan to venture into the wind arena, Jose said that the company was primarily focusing on solar. In the future, they might shift their focus to offshore wind projects in India.

Replying to a query about mitigating the challenge of low-cost debt in India, Mathilde said that the agency had been working for the last ten years on reducing the risk in lending. Low-cost debt is the consequence of higher risk; if the risk is addressed, the cost of debt will come down.

When asked about the possible Hydrogen policy, Jatin said a high-level committee had been formed, including MNRE and NITI Aayog. The policy can be expected anytime in the next three to four months.