Herald: Lack of policy implementation keeps State’s solar target out of reach

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Lack of policy implementation keeps State’s solar target out of reach

10 Nov 2018 06:06am IST

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10 Nov 2018 06:06am IST

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The State has a target of generating 150 megawatts of solar energy by 2022 but till date not much has really moved by way of action on the ground. AJIT JOHN spoke to various people involved in the business to get a pulse of the situation

The need for power to drive ahead in life is basic to modern living. Power as in electricity is important for the economy to function.  The search for power is continuous and more importantly the search for cheaper and cleaner sources is a continuous search. The state of Goa decided to look at solar energy as a viable source for clean energy. This was also prompted by the Centre’s goal for every state to generate 150 megawatts of solar energy by 2022.  

To achieve this goal there were two options. A solar roof top installation or a ground mounted solar power generation unit. The roof mounted in Goa has limited scope due to the paucity of area available. 

However, people in the know stated that the State would be able to generate around 20-25 megawatts by 2022 only if the solar roof top plan is implemented with thrust and that was just not happening with none of the concerned bodies doing anything apart from just talking. To take power generation 120 to 130 megawatts has to come from large plants to up the megawatt capacity.

The issue that had the entire nascent industry in a funk was the small matter of the tariff which had to be fixed. The Joint Electricity Regulatory Commission JERC has certain norms set for setting tariff. As the tariffs fixed by JERC are higher than the power purchase price by the State electricity dept, there is reluctance on part of electricity departments to do the needful.

As far as the large-scale plants are concerned, the procedure of reverse budding has to be implemented. This will ensure competitive rates by the bidding parties. There is a need to conduct a thorough survey of the financial implications for meeting the 120-megawatt solar generation. The advantage of solar power generation is that it will save on transmission loses and importantly save the environment.

Secondly for implementing these big projects open plain land has to be earmarked to the extent of 200 to 240 hectares. At the same time assessment of the transmission network for the solar power generation in concurrence with the land distribution will have to be undertaken. 

A long-time observer of the power industry said the private sector is keen on generating their own power. However, he said the electricity department was purchasing the power at Rs 3.30 per kilowatt and they were not willing to reveal the production cost. The same department however had no problems in selling power at Rs 6 or 8 per kilowatt depending on the load, time and other factors. 

He said solar on the other had would be Rs 5 to 5.25 per kilowatt and with larger capacities it would be even lower. The Goa Govt, he felt should reorganise the industrial estate so that they generate their own power either within the premises or on collective land allocated in the estate.

Pramod Pathak, former Member Secretary - Goa Energy Development Agency (GEDA) said “There is a need to explore the possibility of solar power storage which can be employed after sunset. GEDA in coordination with the electricity dept has finalised and gazetted the Solar Energy Policy last December. It however has not taken off to the extent it should have been.”

When asked why the industry had not taken off in Goa, sources said the tariff fixation in many of the cases of solar installation was still pending. They confirmed the State solar policy would be revised again and ought to be expedited at the earliest.

Perhaps one can get an idea of the absence of motivation towards fulfilling the goals of this campaign with the post of full-time secretary left vacated after Pathak left. Importantly the reorganisation and amalgamation of the administrative cadre is taking time.

Despite all the handicaps around 60-70 people have applied for the installation of the solar rooftop model but as yet there is a delay due to the tariff not being fixed as yet.

Anish Sousa runs a Goa-based company, Sun360 that consults, designs and installs solar power and hot water across Goa, Karnataka and Tamil Nadu. 

Sousa said “The government has done a great job in passing the solar policy in December 2017. However, since it's been almost a year and only a few applications have been passed despite strong interest from consumers. We successfully connected Goa's first hybrid solar plant to the grid in July 2018 but till now no PPA has been signed with the customer.” 

Speaking about the policy he felt it was very important to be clear on the solar policy and on the subsidy offered to the customer. The current policy paralysis is unnecessarily creating doubts in the minds of the customer. It is important, he said to finalise the power purchase agreement (PPA) at the earliest and state the tariff rate, period of PPA and tax exemption on sale of power by consumers. 

The renewable purchase obligation (RPO) can be met by systems installed in the State on government and non-government buildings and private solar farms without any capital investment from the government. There is no need for the government to spend exchequers money on procurement of 125MW solar power from NTPC. Here the government's move to install 410KW on substation buildings must be commended. But for the industry to grow exponentially, the government must do its job of laying down a clear policy rather than getting bogged down by looking to setup the infrastructure themselves. 

Sousa also felt that online applications for solar connections should start and along with-it stringent timelines must be setup and enforced.

Mario Abreu who owns Goa’s first solar shop since 2009, Surya Akshay Urja Shop at Margao feels that the solar policy has to be implemented because customers wanted it implemented. 

Abreu said “This delay is painful, we are here, we are promised subsidies and it’s not done as yet. The delay is painful.”

According to the policy, for small prosumers ie for solar plants of up to 100kW size, the State government shall grant 50% of the capital cost or the benchmark cost provided by MNRE whichever is lower, as interest free loan, which will be recovered in instalments after six months onwards, from the time power flows into grid. The recovery will be made from the payment to be made to the generator for every kWh supplied to the grid. The recovery will be at Rs 4 per kWh or JERC feed in tariff rate whichever is less. The State government shall provide a subsidy of 30% of capital cost or the benchmark cost provided by MNRE, whichever is lower, for plants of size upto 100kW for the standalone systems including the cost of battery (Off-grid Systems) which will be released by way of rupee 1 for every unit of power generated and will be paid once in six months. A sealed tested Energy meter form GED is required to be installed at the generation side to measure the solar power generation. No payment shall be made to such producer under net/gross metering to avoid possibility of double benefit. Finally, for small generators, the meters will be rented out on payment of monthly fees. In case of large generators, the certified/approved meters shall be procured at their cost.

It must be emphasised that despite the delay on the part of the government, people are interested as an official in South Goa who is in the know said “Around 30 people in the south are keen and we have around 4 to 5 temporary connections but the tariffs have to be set to move this industry ahead.”

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