Month in a Minute: Top Headlines from the Indian Renewable Sector in September 2023

Solar open access installations up 24% QoQ in Q2 2023


Here is a recap of important headlines from September 2023:

Solar open access installations grew by 24% in the second quarter of the calendar year 2023 compared to the previous quarter, adding 712 MW of capacity, according to the recently published Q2 2023 Mercom India Solar Open Access Market Report. Throughout the quarter, module prices continued to decline, which reduced project costs and enhanced the attractiveness of power purchase agreements, thereby boosting the growth of solar open access capacity.

The Ministry of Power has introduced new guidelines for tariff-based competitive bidding for grid-connected solar projects. These guidelines aim to enhance transparency, establish fair procurement procedures, and encourage competitive pricing. This new framework is designed to promote consistent growth in installations across the country, with input from developers. The new incentives and relaxations are expected to stimulate increased participation, while penalties will serve as a deterrent against project delays and cancellations.

The Ministry of Heavy Industries has amended the testing parameters for enhancing the human safety of electric vehicles, incentivized under the production-linked incentive program for automobiles and auto components and the Faster Adoption and Manufacturing of Electric and Hybrid Vehicles II program. The new safety measures will be made mandatory from October 1, 2023, for claiming incentives under the two programs.

The Central Electricity Regulatory Commission has notified that certain provisions of the General Network Access (GNA) regulations and the first amendment to the GNA Regulations 2022 will come into effect from October 1, 2023. The scheduling and despatch of electricity will be based on the quantum of GNA, GNA (Renewable Energy), Temporary GNA, and T-GNA (Renewable Energy) for each of the designated interstate transmission system customers and other users of the grid.

The Ministry of New & Renewable Energy has decided to extend the waiver of the domestic content requirement for solar cells used for projects under Component C of the Pradhan Mantri Kisan Urja Suraksha evam Utthan Mahabhiyan program until March 31, 2024. The move is a continuation of the memorandum issued by the Ministry on August 1, 2022, which extended the waiver until June 20, 2023.

The Solar Energy Corporation of India (SECI) paid solar and wind power producers ₹12.15 billion (~$146.4 million) for the energy purchased in August 2023. The payment reflected an increase of 6% from the July disbursements. The disbursements increased by 49% on a year-over-year basis. In August, disbursements to solar and wind developers constituted 94.1% of the total payments made by the nodal agency. SECI made payments of ₹582.30 million (~$7 million) to contractors and service providers.

The Indian government is set to divest up to 4.92% of its stake in the state-owned power company SJVN through an Offer for Sale. The floor price for this stake has been set at ₹69 (~$0.83)/share. This offer involves the government’s sale of a base offer comprising 2.46% of the company’s equity, with an additional 2.46% retained as an oversubscription option.

Government-owned power transmission utility POWERGRID has received approval from its Board of Directors to raise unsecured, non-convertible, non-cumulative, redeemable, and taxable bonds for ₹22.5 billion (~$270.3 million) through private placement. The bonds will come with a base issue size of ₹5 billion (~$60 million) and a green shoe option of ₹17.5 billion (~$210.3 million). They are redeemable at par in 10 equal installments, with interest payments yearly.

The Ministry of New & Renewable Energy plans to conduct auctions to allocate offshore wind sites along the Tamil Nadu coastline. These projects will generate power for distribution through various avenues, including open access mode, third-party sale, power exchanges, or internal consumption. The National Institute of Wind Energy will administer these auctions. The first zone (B) is expected to be tendered by February 1, 2023. The other zones (E and G) will be auctioned sometime during the next financial year.

The Ministry of Power, in recent amendments to the Electricity Rules, 2005, has reverted to the previous regulation, allowing collective captive users to hold the minimum ownership of 26% in a group captive open access project. According to the notification, the words captive user in the sub-rule (1), clause (a), and sub-clause(i) of the rules will be replaced with captive users. In July, the Ministry issued an amendment changing it to a captive user, mandating every captive power user, even in a group captive structure of open access, to hold a minimum ownership of 26%.

The recent ‘Approved List of Models and Manufacturers’ (ALMM) rules published by the Ministry of New and Renewable Energy set 19% as the minimum efficiency for the modules to be listed. The minimum efficiency for modules used in utility/grid-scale power projects is set at 20%; for rooftop solar and solar pumping projects, it is 19.5%, and for solar lighting, 19%. Although it does not directly ban, it effectively eliminates polycrystalline modules, whose efficiencies have peaked at 17-18% from being listed in the ALMM going forward. However, not all stakeholders are satisfied with this decision.

The Union Cabinet has approved the viability gap funding for the development of the battery energy storage systems (BESS) program with an initial allocation of ₹94 billion (~$1.1 billion), which includes budgetary support of ₹37.6 billion (~$452 million). The aid can potentially offset as much as 40% of the project’s capital costs, contingent upon the projects being finalized and operational within an 18 to 24-month timeframe.

Rajasthan, India’s largest state by area, has unveiled its draft for “Rajasthan Energy Policy 2050,” seeking to transition the state towards a sustainable and eco-friendly economy. One of the policy’s targets is to deploy a combined 90 GW of solar and wind capacity by 2030. This leap in renewable energy capacity is expected to generate employment opportunities for approximately 110,000 individuals, spanning various skill sets required for business development, project design, construction, commissioning, and maintenance.

Power distribution companies in Karnataka, beginning this year, proposed revised tariffs for low-tension and high-tension consumers, introducing grid support charges that may discourage captive open access power projects. The proposal is pending the approval of the Karnataka Electricity Regulatory Commission. If the proposal receives the green light, captive power projects will have to factor in an additional grid-support fee ranging from ₹1.57 ($0.019)/kWh to ₹2.85 ($0.035)/kWh.