Month in a Minute: Top Headlines from Indian Renewable Sector in February 2024

Budget 2024 highlights: Free electricity via rooftop solar, VGF for offshore wind


Union Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman unveiled key measures during the presentation of the 2024 interim budget, signaling a significant push towards sustainable energy and electric mobility. One of the standout announcements involves providing up to 300 units of free electricity every month to 10 million households through rooftop solarization. This move aims not only to make clean energy accessible to a large segment of the population but also to encourage the widespread adoption of solar power.

The Union Cabinet has approved the Pradhan Mantri-Surya Ghar: Muft Bijli Yojana, aimed at installing rooftop solar systems on 10 million households, with a total outlay of ₹750.21 billion (~$9.05 billion) until the financial year (FY) 2025-26. Prime Minister Narendra Modi had announced the new subsidy program for residential consumers on February 13, 2024. Under the new program, a subsidy of ₹30,000 (~$361)/kW will be provided for residential rooftop solar systems up to 2 kW for applications submitted after February 13, 2024.

The Ministry of New and Renewable Energy (MNRE) has kept in abeyance its recent order reimposing the Approved List of Models and Manufacturers regulation from April 1, 2024. On February 9, 2024, the ministry confirmed the reimposition of ALMM with exemptions for projects set up under open-access solar and those in advanced stages of construction and rooftop solar projects with no subsidy. The MNRE has specified that the ALMM regulation will be relaxed for solar projects in advanced stages of construction that have placed module orders before March 31, 2024. Whether the project is in the advanced stages of construction and if the irrevocable LC has been opened before March 31, 2024, was to be subject to verification.

Solar installations in India dropped 44.1% in the calendar year (CY) 2023, with a capacity of 7.5 GW added against 13.4 GW in 2022, according to Mercom India’s Q4 & Annual 2023 India Solar Market Update. Large-scale solar installations saw a year-over-year (YoY) drop of 50.8%, accounting for 5.8 GW from 11.7 GW in 2022. Large-scale solar installations constituted 77.2% of the total annual capacity additions, while rooftop solar made up the remaining 22.8%. Priya Sanjay, Managing Director of Mercom India, said, “Module price drops in Q3 led to increased orders, but grid compliance and last-minute connectivity issues due to new regulations caused project commissioning delays.”

The Ministry of Power has amended the guidelines to the tariff-based competitive bidding process for the procurement of firm and dispatchable renewable power from grid-connected solar, wind, wind-solar hybrid, and renewable energy projects with energy storage. The revised guidelines removed the clause relating to punitive measures for delays in the commencement of power supply. Earlier, if there was a delay in commencing power supply beyond the scheduled commercial operation date of up to six months, the generator was liable for penalties.

The Tamil Nadu Electricity Regulatory Commission has unveiled the Forecasting, Scheduling, and Deviation Settlement and related matters for Wind and Solar Generation Regulations in 2024. These regulations will be implemented starting April 1, 2024. The regulations are designed to support the integration of wind and solar energy into the Tamil Nadu grid, ensuring stability and security in accordance with the state grid code and relevant legislation.

The Rajasthan Electricity Regulatory Commission has increased the cap on net metering from 500 kW to 1 MW for rooftop solar installations. In a suo motu order, the Commission said the net metering ceiling increase is to encourage the penetration of rooftop solar installations. The state’s Grid Interactive Distributed Renewable Energy Generating System Regulations, 2021, cover various aspects, including net metering and net billing arrangements, for renewable energy systems connected to the grid.

Large industries in Odisha have the mandate of fulfilling Renewable Purchase Obligations (RPO) owing to the captive thermal plants used to run their facilities. This regulatory necessity positions Odisha as a promising market for solar open access. However, to realize the potential of solar open access, Odisha will have to overcome the challenges arising from policy ambiguity relating to energy banking provisions, land availability, and limited transmission infrastructure. Odisha’s total installed power capacity was 7.9 GW at the end of the third quarter (Q3) of 2023, according to Mercom India Research.

The Directorate General of Trade Remedies has initiated an anti-dumping investigation on imports of textured tempered coated and uncoated glass originating in or exported from China and Vietnam. This investigation stems from an application submitted by Borosil Renewables, alleging similarities between their domestically produced solar glass and the imported counterparts. Borosil argued that these imports are equivalent in physical and chemical attributes, manufacturing processes, functions, pricing, distribution, and tariff classifications.

The Karnataka Government will deploy 40,000 off-grid solar pump sets under Component -B of Pradhan Mantri Kisan Urja Suraksha evam Utthaan Mahabhiyan (PM-KUSUM) at an estimated cost of ₹11.74 billion (~$ $141.4 million). Chief Minister Siddaramaiah made the announcement during his budget speech today. The program, initiated to foster self-sufficiency amongst farmers, will see a central government contribution of 30%. The state government will increase its subsidy from 30% to 50%.

The Ministry of Power has declared that the central pools for solar power and solar-wind hybrid power have begun operations from February 15, 2024. Any interstate transmission system connected solar and solar-wind hybrid capacity bid after this date will fall under their corresponding pools. The operation of these pools will follow a first-in, first-out approach. This means that projects receiving their letter of award first will be included and sold first within their respective pools. The Ministry has also proposed an amendment to shorten the duration of each central pool from five to three years.

In Rajasthan, where the promise of renewable energy seems boundless, hurdles have emerged in the path of progress where a significant capacity of open access solar projects in the pipeline are at a standstill. In the third quarter of 2023, when the open access installations in India surged by 36% quarter-over-quarter to 907 MW, Rajasthan ranked fifth for installations behind Maharashtra, Karnataka, Tamil Nadu, and Gujarat. The bottlenecks have cast a shadow over the ambitious plans to harness Rajasthan’s vast renewable energy potential.

The Ministry of Power has instructed state electricity regulatory commissions (SERCs) to comply with the Electricity (Promoting Renewable Energy Through Green Energy Open Access) Rules and align their states’ Open Access Regulations with the notified rules and all the amendments. SERCs have been directed to submit their compliance status by February 27, 2024. In May last year, the Ministry of Power amended the green energy open access rules to enable consumers with a total contracted demand or sanctioned load of 100 kW or above to avail of green energy open access.

The Maharashtra State Electricity Distribution Company (MSEDCL) has prepared plans to install 3 million rooftop solar systems on houses in the state under the Pradhan Mantri Surya Ghar – Muft Bijli Yojana. The state has set a district/region-wise target and directed all field offices to focus on technical feasibility approvals and meter testing. MSEDCL has also urged that efforts be taken to create awareness among prospective consumers through camps, advertisements, and social media. The region-wise rooftop solar system targets are as follows: Chhatrapati Sambhaji Nagar region, 407,500; Konkan region, 934,600; Nagpur region, 892,500; and Pune region, 765,400.

The Solar Energy Corporation of India, on behalf of the National Institute of Wind Energy, has invited bids for the allocation of sea-bed lease rights for 4 GW offshore wind power projects on a build-own-operate basis. The last date for submitting bids is May 6, 2024. Bids will be opened the next day. The scope of the work involves conducting surveys and engaging in development activities related to the design, construction, financing, commissioning, operation, maintenance, and decommissioning of offshore wind power projects located along the Tamil Nadu coast.