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Unique Scheme for Energy Efficiency

As the sun was setting on the previous fiscal year, the Ministry of Power and Bureau of Energy Efficiency (BEE) were quietly resurrecting a historic regulation for accelerating energy efficiency in the industrial sector. The set of notifications issued on March 30, 2012, requires 478 industries to achieve reductions in specific energy consumption by an average of 5 per cent during the next 3 years. This scheme is the first of its kind in a developing country.

Perform, Achieve, Trade

The Perform, Achieve and Trade (PAT) mechanism, as the scheme is called, requires notified industries to invest in energy efficiency and reduce at least 5 per cent of input energy cost for self and public good. The savings in the first three years of the scheme are estimated at 9.8 million tonnes of oil equivalent of energy or approximately 9000 MW of avoided thermal power capacity, without compromising on the industrial output.

The direct benefits for the participating industries in this period is reductions in input costs related to energy of approximately Rs 30,000 crore at the current oil prices.

Needless to add, this will significantly enhance global competitiveness of industry while simultaneously reducing India's overall GHG emissions. The PAT scheme is the flagship scheme of the National Mission for Enhanced Energy Efficiency (NMEEE), which is one of the 8 national missions announced under the National Action Plan on Climate Change (NAPCC) by the Prime Minister in June 2008.

The thrust of NAPCC is towards development of multi-pronged, long-term, and integrated strategies for achieving key goals of sustainable development, while balancing the concerns of climate change.

The scheme builds on the provision of the Energy Conservation Act that empowers the Central Government to notify energy-intensive industries and mandate them to report their energy usage, appoint Energy Managers, and adhere to targets for energy efficiency.

The Ministry of Power had, in 2007, notified units consuming energy more than the prescribed benchmark in 9 industrial sectors — namely Thermal Power Plants, Fertilisers, Cement, Pulp and Paper, Textiles, Chlor Alkali, Steel, Aluminium and Railways. The present notification requires the 478 listed industries amongst the 9 industrial sectors to achieve the target for Specific Energy Consumption (SEC) by 2015. SEC, as defined under the scheme, is the energy used for generating a unit of output.

Energy Efficiency

The scheme is unique in many ways, particularly from a developing-country perspective. Firstly, it creates a market for energy efficiency through tradable certificates, called Energy Saving Certificate (ESCerts) by allowing them to be used for meeting targets. These certificates can be issued to any of the 478 industries who are able to exceed their respective notified target, the value of the certificate being the excess achievement, more than the target set. The beneficiary industry could trade this certificate to any of the rest of the entities (of the 478) that is unable to meet its target, as buying ESCerts has been allowed as sufficient fulfilment of compliance requirement without any penal action.

Thus, the scheme, by allowing the use of market-based instrument in the form of ESCerts, incentivises to over-achieve at the individual industry level, while simultaneously making sure that the overall goal of improving energy intensity is achieved in the most economical manner. This innovative mechanism to encourage compliance is a significant departure from the command and control regime, while promising to be more efficient, transparent, and inclusive.

Secondly, the rules promulgated take note of the fact that the scheme, particularly its market creation goal, needs to align with the investment decision-making processes of the private sector. In order to make sure that industries take a considered decision of making investments for achievement of specified targets or purchasing ESCerts, the certainty of adequate numbers of ESCerts being available as well as their price needs to be known much earlier than the end of the compliance period.

Under normal circumstances, both these parameters would be known at the end of the compliance period of 3 years. The rules notified allow intermediate issue of ESCerts after every year, based on partial fulfilment of targets, and thereby enable sufficient liquidity of ESCerts in the market at the end of the first year itself, allowing for decision by the remaining actors to purchase them for compliance. This will create the critical mass for market for ESCert to function.

Simple, Transparent

Thirdly, the monitoring and verification protocol of the scheme culls out the best from similar schemes around the globe, simultaneously making it simple, transparent and effective. The targeted reduction of SEC is measured on a gate-to-gate basis, by measuring energy usage per unit of output. The simplicity of approach will not only make the exercise robust, but will also encourage companies to comply due to reduced cost of compliance.

Fourthly, the rules outline the monitoring and verification mechanism by inviting reputed agencies having adequate technical knowledge and having energy auditors certified by BEE. The eligibility conditions, the manner of their appointment, have been elaborated in the rules, making them transparent and credible at par with global standards. It also includes a liability clause for the monitoring and verification agencies to guard against frivolous certifications.

Fifthly, the scheme assimilates several competing issues seamlessly under its domain. Being an energy intensity reduction (or energy efficiency) scheme, it doesn't present any restriction on the expansion of capacity. It may be mentioned that an energy or emission cap scheme would have needed reduction in energy use, and thereby the output from the baseline.

The added incentive of ESCerts and its attendant additional monetary benefits enhances the attractiveness of implementing energy efficiency. The overall reduction in energy use enhances efforts towards energy security, reducing GHG emissions, while simultaneously taking the industry on a higher growth path.

The scheme has been a result of extensive consultations, both at the policy level as well as with the industries, and addresses most of the concerns. PAT scheme has all the traits to become a benchmark for design and implementation of policies and measures, particularly when the need for aligning of competing incentives of various actors exists. It also highlights an innovative approach of introducing market-based instruments to encourage compliance. Successful implementation of the scheme could serve as a model for upcoming and existing environmental regulations in a transparent and economically efficient manner.

India moves to meet increasing power demands

Mumbai, India - Growing demand for power in India ‒ plus a rapidly increasing shortage of thermal coal in the country ‒ has pushed it to surpass China as the world’s biggest thermal coal importer, with prime minister Manhoman Singh seeking supplies that have halted plans for US$36 billion of new power plants because of the fuel shortage.

Purchases from abroad may exceed 118Mt this year in India, compared with China’s 102Mt, said Daniel Hynes, director of commodity research at Citigroup Incorporated in Sydney. Imports may rise after the government ordered state- run Coal India Limited to plug a local shortfall with foreign supplies, according to analysts at Sanford C. Bernstein & Company

India’s forecast emergence as the world’s biggest coal buyer underscores a dearth of domestic fuel that prompted companies from billionaire Anil Ambani’s Reliance Power Limited to Adani Power Limited to mothball planned expansion of electricity capacity. India’s US$1.7 trillion economy grew at the slowest pace in two years from July to September as power and factory output slowed. For its part, China is adding twice as much coal production capacity this year as in 2011, according to the National Energy Administration, reducing its import needs.

“Coal shipments to China will get diverted to India,” Hong Kong-based Bernstein analyst Michael Parker said in an interview. “In China, power consumption growth rates will continue to decline and coal production and transport capacity growth are rapidly improving.”

The deficit between the demand and supply of domestic coal in India may rise as high as 150Mt by 2014 if the country fails to increase local supplies by 6% this year, according to Hynes. The nation is seeking to improve infrastructure to achieve an average economic growth rate of 9% percent in the five years starting April 1.

Thermal or steam-coal imports by China will drop this year by about 40Mt, an amount that may be bought by India instead, Parker said. China’s purchases rose 17% to about 138Mt last year, excluding coking coal used to make steel, customs data shows.

China will add 200Mtof coal-production capacity this year, twice as much as in 2011, according to the National Energy Administration. Power consumption increased 12% last year and may increase 8.5% this year, the official Xinhua News Agency reports. Coal output increased 11% in 2011 and may grow 6.6% in 2012, Bernstein estimates.

India imported 81.1Mt of steam coal for its power plants in 2011, according to New Delhi-based Inter-ocean Group, a shipping brokerage. Annual overseas purchases may rise by 74%, or 60Mt, in four years, according to K. Raja Gopal, CEO at the power unit of Lanco Infratech Limited ‒ India’s second-largest non-state power utility.

5 MW thin film tracker project completed in India

A five megawatt (MW) thin film photovoltaic project has been completed in the Indian state of Gujarat. It is said to be one of the largest systems, which combines thin film technology with a tracking system.

The thin film project is located in the Indian state of Gujarat. The project was completed and grid-connected in December. Backbone Enterprises undertook the project development, while InSolare Energy Pvt. Ltd worked as engineering, procurement and construction contractor. NexPower, meanwhile, supplied the thin film modules needed. In a statement released, NexPower said, "The solar plant is expected to produce up to 25 percent power output more than that of a standard crystalline plant without a tracking system."

Overall, a spokesperson for the company tells pv magazine that it supplied over 40 MW worth of its modules to the Indian photovoltaic market in 2011. As aforementioned, five MW were supplied to the project above, while a further 36 MW were shipped to Wipro EcoEnergy for use in its projects. The company also worked with other partners, but is not at liberty to disclose them.

Looking ahead, the spokesperson says there are further projects lined up this year. "For 2012 we do have scheduled shipments lined up for projects in different countries," they said. "However, due to company culture will disclose them once finished and received approvals from clients. Hopefully should be within very near future."

In 2011, NexPower shipped orders to more than 20 countries. "Every year, we have teams focusing on Europe, North and South America, Asia (India, Japan, Greater China, South East), Ocenia and Africa," added the spokesperson.

Solar energy in India

India is yet to utilise its solar potential; at present, solar power (photovoltaic and concentrating solar thermal power) contributes a mere 0.4 per cent of the total power generation.

Not so long ago, nuclear power was destined to save a country from energy drought by providing cheap and abundant power for centuries to come. Great political capital was expended, contracts signed. But, despite claims of being near perfect safety, damage did occur. Under unprecedented public pressure after the Fukushima incident especially, state and national governments have started to swear off nuclear power, making way for other renewable sources such as wind energy and solar power.

Most of the major governments around the world, such as China and the USA, realise the need to develop solar energy as a viable source of energy. Not only it is extremely helpful in meeting their energy security challenges, but it also helps in maintaining a lead in science, technology and innovation, the calling cards of any successful economy. With generous subsidies, huge amounts of money have been invested, by China especially, in R&D efforts.

Solar power in India

Given the huge fuel import bills racked up by India each year, which is only projected to grow, there is an urgent need to meet the energy challenges posed by a growing economy, which lacks significant sources of conventional energy. Launched with much fanfare in 2009, the Jawaharlal Nehru National Solar Mission aims to increase solar power generation to 20 GW by 2020. This is a very ambitious plan, with the government allocating $19 billion to it. There is enough reason to be ambitious. Situated in the tropical belt, India is well endowed with solar energy, with a total annual solar potential of almost 5 trillion kwh. States such as Andhra Pradesh and Gujarat and regions like Ladakh receive the maximum amount of sunlight, close to 3,000 hours annually. The plan aims to increase the contribution of solar power to the total power generation from the paltry 0.4 per cent at present.

The National Solar Mission seeks to use a multi-pronged strategy to increase the use of the sun as a renewable source of energy. A number of people, especially the poor and those in the rural areas, make extensive use of biomass-based fuels (cow dung cakes, for instance) to meet their cooking and heating requirements. Burning these fuels in earthen stoves (chulhas) releases harmful particulate matter into the air, which has serious health repercussions for families. The solar mission also seeks to provide subsidies for solar cookers, lamps and water-heaters to enable families to utilise cleaner, healthier fuels for meeting their daily needs.

The National Solar Mission, in its mission document, lists the construction of a solar grid as one of its top priorities. Here, it uses a concept known as “feed-in tariffs”: A system by which tariffs for buying back power from renewable energy utility companies reduce over time; higher tariff given in the initial stages to help them tide over the high initial costs of setting up large-scale utilities.

A huge number of households in India are off the grid. In many areas inhabited by tribal communities, villages are not being provided electricity. The cost of connecting them to the grid in these cases can be prohibitive. The solar mission seeks to provide micro-credit and other subsidies to residents of these areas under the National Rural Electrification programme to enable them to buy solar lighting equipment.

Other branches of the government are also getting in on the act. The cost of ferrying fuel and other supplies to the forward posts along the Indian land border is so prohibitively high that solar power in the remote upper reaches of Leh and Kargil is being proposed. Undertaken by Pyro Power, a project has been implemented along the Leh-Kargil highway to provide power and lessen fuel requirements. According to Mayank Gupta of Pyro Power, “We are implementing a hybrid solution —where electricity from diesel generators will be augmented by solar and wind power. Fuel cells are also being added to the mix. Between October and March, the setup is being tested in the harsh environs of the Indian border.”

Selco, or the Solar Electric Light Company, is based out of Bangalore and has been providing solar electric systems to rural and urban poor for almost 15 years. Selco installs and services solar electric installations on a unique business model. Solar panels and the associated lighting systems are expensive to setup. Selco gets its customers to put up 25 per cent of the cost upfront while deferring the payment for the rest of the system on installments. Since 1995, Selco has installed almost 1,20,000 solar power systems across the country. Its founder, Harish Hande, was awarded the Ramon Magasaysay Award for 2011. All through its existence, it has served to dispel long-held myths about the affordability and serviceability of alternate technologies among the poor and about the profitability of companies that cater to such markets.


Solar cells, for all their vaunted benefits and state-of-the-art technology progressing by leaps and bounds, are worthless pieces of silicon without the sun. The sun, though shines constantly, still has to pass through clouds, fog and the occasional smog to get to the solar panel that has been pointed in its direction. This is to say nothing of the time when the sun is invisible to us at night. This raises the most troubling question for the future of solar power. During the day when our solar panels on the roof or in the backyard are busy generating electricity, most of us are in our offices, whose energy requirements are so great as to render ineffective most solar panels. At night, when the home comes alive and buzzes with activity and the steady hum of the air-conditioner, the solar panels are silent. This mismatch, it seemed, no technological marvel could overcome, almost dooming solar power to the history’s bin of have-beens. But only almost, as the recent R&D efforts have yielded significant innovations.

Research and development

As legend goes, in ancient Greece, Archimedes used mirrors to catch the sun and set the entire Roman fleet on fire. Apparently, this concentrated energy of the sun can be used for generating power. If you were driving around the Thar desert that surrounds the city of Bikaner, chances are you might come across a series of mirrors, placed in a circle, pointed, almost like chelas looking up at their guru, at a huge tower.

These installation represents the very latest in solar technology and is known as a Concentrated Solar Power (CSP) plant. Setup by ACME, a power company, at a cost of Rs 150 crore, it has a capacity of 2.5 mw, that “will be scaled to 10 mw at peak”, according to Arpita Saini, a company representative. CSP plants are constructed on a large piece of flatland, usually out in the middle of the desert (where there is no dearth of light in the day). A number of lenses (mirrors), also called heliostats, are laid out in a circle around a central tower called a receiver. The heliostats are then positioned, with the help of a computer programme, at an angle so as to maximise their ability to catch the sun’s rays and transfer maximum energy to the central tower. The central tower itself contains water or other substances, which are converted to steam with the solar energy. This steam is then used to power turbines that generate electricity. Efforts are also on to test molten salts in the central towers. These molten salts have the capability of storing energy reflected from the mirrors and lenses over long periods of time. While still an area of active research, this might go a long way in solving the problem of making solar fields productive during the nights. According to Saini, “ACME Power’s CSP plants use air receivers, and are the latest in technology being developed by eSolar, a major solar power company in the US.”

Efforts are also on for finding new materials for solar power. Professor Gurunath’s lab at IIT-Kanpur, for instance, found materials “while studying the photo-physics of fluorescent proteins found in marine organisms that can make good solar cells”. He adds, “These materials are naturally found and if the panels are broken then one does not have to worry about environmental impact, since they are completely bio-degradable.” With patents filed, Gurunath is concerned about “finding students who are interested in working in fields that are at an intersection of chemistry and electronics”. Nature also provides us with answers. Branches grow on trees in a way so as to maximise their ability to catch sunlight. This helps the lower branches to survive. These branches grow in a pattern that mimics the well-known mathematical sequence, the Fibonacci series. A 13-year old boy, Aiden Dwyer, was perceptive enough to note this and built a solar panel array using this insight. This has now been shown to produce a greater amount of power than the normal array. There are claims that this design may eventually end up revolutionising solar array design.

Some methods to produce electricity from the sun belong firmly in the realm of science fiction. For instance, a group of scientists have proposed to send up a large number of geo-stationary satellites with massive solar panels into orbit, where power of the sun increases. According to them, the electricity thus generated can be beamed to the earth with lasers or microwaves. Challenges remain in the successful execution of this idea, not the least of which is the identification of lasers or microwaves, which would not blind or kill someone who happened to cross the beam.

It becomes increasingly clear though that the need of the hour is not only to increase solar power capacity, but also to invest in the technology that will drive solar power plants across the world tomorrow. In India, especially, solar power is a promising renewable energy alternative. But we need government policies to bankroll R&D efforts as much as rolling out next generation solar grids. “Solar power is now more competitive and the rates at which solar power is generated indicate that grid parity (the cost at which generating power from solar is equal to the cost of generating power from coal) is not far away,” says Gupta.

The future for solar looks increasingly bright. And the country that manages to make the solar panels of tomorrow will control this increasingly lucrative industry.

One way of measuring the sustainability of a source of energy is the ease of its availability. In that respect, the rays of the sun are, perhaps, the easiest-to-reach fuel source. The sun derives its energy from nuclear fusion. Though the distance between the sun and the earth is large (almost 150 million km or 1 astronomical unit), it still manages to receive almost 1,000 w/m2 of energy from the sun. No wonder the ancients revered the sun.

Generation of Solar Power

Solar cells are the predominant way of generating electricity from the sun. A solar cell, when kept in a dark room is no more than a big chunk of silicon. Exposing the same to sunlight is electrifying, literally. A solar cell works on the principle of the photoelectric effect, which, simply put, is the name given to the movement of electrons within the atoms of the solar cell in the presence of light. All light contains energy, which is carried in the form of discrete packets called photons. When a photon strikes a solar cell, it can either be reflected, absorbed or allowed to pass through the material that makes up the solar cell. Out of these three alternatives, only those photons that are absorbed are of interest since by “absorption” of a photon, we really mean transferring of energy from the photon to the atom. The atom that absorbed this photon now has greater energy than earlier, which causes an electron within it to move (in more scientific terms, the electron moves from the valence to the conduction bands). The movement of the electron generates a small negative charge and leaves in its wake a small positive charge. Positive and negative terminals are now present within the atom, which causes a small potential difference (voltage) to be setup. When this effect is repeated across billions of atoms in the solar cell, we get solar power.

Each photon is characterised by its wavelength. Since each photon is not absorbed by the solar cell, it follows that not every wavelength is helpful in the production of electricity. While solar cells are capable of producing electricity from a range of the frequencies present in light, some parts of the solar spectrum (such as infrared, ultra-violet or diffused light) are not covered. To prevent this waste, solar cells are also often made of materials that make them respond to only a certain wavelength of light (monochromatic light). The incoming light is broken up into different wavelengths and focused on solar cells that respond to particular wavelengths. This results in an increased — sometimes as high as 50 per cent — efficiency. The most advanced commercial solar cells have an efficiency of 21 per cent. Apart from this, there are a number of other criterion, such as charge carrier separation efficiency, thermodynamic efficiency and quantum efficiency. One of the most widely used measures is the “energy conversion efficiency” metric, which measures in watts/m2 the amount of sunlight falling on a solar panel that is converted into electricity.

The Materials used

Apart from the wavelength of light that strikes a solar panel, its material or manner of construction can also make a big difference to cost and efficiency of solar energy to electricity conversion. With research into solar panel technology yielding greater dividends, newer materials like cadmium and gallium arsenide have been brought into use. The most popular material, however, was — and continues to be — silicon. Different technologies exist that make use of different properties of this element. Thin-film technologies reduce the amount of silicon required to create the solar cell. “Most solar panels in India are made of crystalline silicon,” says Mayank Gupta of Pyro Power, a solar power startup based out of Delhi. Other materials such as cadmium-telluride, copper-indium-gallium-selenide (Cigs) are also increasingly being used to make solar cells. Perhaps, the most important and the most visible market for solar panels is in space exploration. The images of the international space station hovering some 400 km above the earth’s surface with its massive solar panels spread out like a soaring eagle are perhaps familiar to all of us. The power requirements of a space station are unique. The power system must not only cater to the needs of its occupants but also provide enough power to conduct experiments and operate essential life-support systems that are mission-critical. These strict requirements put the spotlight on efficiency of solar cells. Gallium-arsenide (GaAs)-based solar cells were originally developed for space exploration and similar applications. Similar materials like germanium (Ge) or gallium-indium-phosphide (GaInP2) are also being used now. GaAs-based solar cells have been used in the Mars Rover Exploration mission, which has lasted for more than 90 days that it was supposed to run. GaAs-based solar cells have also powered solar cars that have won the solar world challenge multiple times. Materials for solar cells are chosen carefully since different materials will have a different response for each wavelength.

The Economics

One of the major concerns since the start of developments in solar power has been the exorbitant cost associated with installation of solar cells and the long break-even time. Since the first solar cells were invented in Bell Labs in 1954, the cost of solar cells (measured in $/watt) has come down steadily from about $250/watt to around $1/watt today. With a large number of solar power plants coming up, the cost is slated to come down further, say, about $0.33/Watt.

The cost of setting up solar panels can still be daunting for individuals with small power needs. Governments across the world, eager for their citizens to switch to greener alternatives to fossil fuels have been providing generous subsidies to home and business owners intent on switching to solar power. For instance, faced with acute land shortage to setup a power plant, the Delhi government is considering a power buyback scheme in which it will buy excess power from consumers at attractive rates. Power-buyback schemes are a hybrid solution. It makes consumers diversify the sources from where they get their electricity, while enabling them to use conventional electricity as a fall-back option in case solar does not live up to its promise (in rain or on cloudy days). This has made solar look more attractive as it allows people to recoup their investments even faster.

Coal shortage to hit power capacity plans in India

Business Line reported that the Indian power ministry, in its report to the Planning Commission, has informed that coal availability and capacity addition during the XII Plan paints a very very bleak scenario raising questions about achieving 9% growth during 2012-17.

With Coal India Limited production projected to be around 615 million tonnes against the XII Plan requirement of 842 million tonnes, the situation is likely to be very bad.

A note submitted to the Planning Commission states that “It may be noted that the availability of coal, as indicated by CIL, would support only about 19,000 MW of CIL linked new capacity during the XII Plan, as against 38,000 MW required. Accordingly, the XII Plan target of 76,000 MW would need to be scaled down to about 57,000 MW.”

To sustain capacity addition of 76,000 MW proposed in the XII Plan, fuel availability and related concerns need to be ensured. By the end of the XII Plan, the coal requirement would be around 842 million tonnes against the availability through linkage of around 450 million tonnes, coal blocks 100 million tonnes and imported coal 54 million tonnes. In addition to this, power utilities are likely to import 159 million tonnes to bridge the shortfall of 238 million tonnes.

The note states that credit exposure limit of banks and IFCs to the power sector is almost close to the breaching limit. It also points to mismatch in debt tenor (15 years) and cash flows (over 25 years). This issue is further complicated by the absence of uniform land acquisition policy that has held up a large number of projects coupled with delays in according environmental clearances to power projects/captive coal blocks. There is also the issue of poor financial health of distribution companies.

The total capacity addition during the XII Plan has been proposed at around 76,000 MW which will roughly comprise 62,695 MW based on coal fed projects, 2,800 MW of nuclear power, 9,200 MW of hydro power and 1,086 MW of gas based power.

NTPC to set up 5MWp Solar PV Project at Port Blair

New Delhi, Feb. 20 -- The Bhoomi Pooja of 5MWp Solar PV Project at Garacharma, Port Blair, Andaman & Nicobar Islands was performed by Shakti Sinha IAS, Chief Secretary, A&N Administration and DK Jain, Director (Technical) NTPC recently.

Jalaj Srivastava IAS, Principal Secretary (Power), A&N Administration, R Venkateswaran, RED (South) NTPC, Dr Yameen Md. Murtaza, Supdt.Engineer (Electricity) A&N Administration and P Harisinghaney, GM (REP), NTPC, Belgaum were also present on the occasion.

RED (South), NTPC said this is the first large scale solar project of A&N Islands and NTPC. This project will augment the diesel based power generation of A&N Islands. The project being environment friendly would add clean and green power to the A&N grid.

French betting big on India's Solar Potential

Indian subsidiary of French major, Solairedirect plans to invest Rs 4,000 crore to become 400 MW company in next 5 years...

Driven by the will to harness India's massive solar potential, Solairedirect Energy India is planning to invest nearly Rs. 4,000 crore for funding its target of becoming a 400 MW company in the next five years. On sourcing of funds, Mr. Gaurav Sood, MD, Solairedirect Energy India said it would be a combination of debt and equity, the ratio of which is expected to be around 75:25. However, it may vary depending upon the project financials, cost of debt and cost of equity. The solar power producer is a subsidiary of the French solar major Solairedirect, which entered the country last year, and provides end-to-end solar energy solutions for turnkey projects, including project development and engineering, construction and installation, financing, operation and maintenance.

To achieve the 400 MW target, the company will be signing PPA's under national and various state programmes.

However, according to Mr. Sood, major part of the growth would come by signing private PPAs with bankable off -takers outside these programmes. He informed that the company is already working on signing these private PPAs with corporate and large bankable off -takers. "We are in discussion with leading corporates and large energy users to supply them competitive solar power over a long period of time," he told PWI. Having established a successful business model in France, as an integrated player in the upstream value chain of the photovoltaic (PV) market, the company is all set to strengthen its roots in India.

Solairedirect has already won a 5 MW project in Rajasthan, under the Jawaharlal Nehru National Solar Mission ( JNNSM). The company bagged the order with an offered tariff of as low as Rs 7.49/ unit. The company explained that the secret to quoting such a low tariff was due to its bankable EPC contracts, best in class components, lowest possible regulatory risk, etc. This not only resulted in mitigating risks, but also lowering the return expectations of our investors. It is a major step towards building large scale solar power plants, supplying competitive solar power in the country. The Rajasthan project will be operational by December 2012 and Solairedirect will be using its expertise of designing, building and operating more than 120 MW projects in France. It will set up a state-of- the-art project in India using crystalline technology.

Banking on Solar Potential in India

India, as a tropical country, where sunshine is available for longer hours per day and in great intensity, is being seen as one of the most promising market for investing in solar technology. Though, it is currently costlier than other sources of power such as coal, the JNNSM aims to overcome the barrier sooner than later. The mission is a major initiative of the government of India and state governments to promote ecologically sustainable growth, while addressing India's energy security challenge. The objective of the mission is to achieve 20,000 MW power-generating capacity by 2022, and create conditions through rapid scale-up of capacity and technological innovation to drive down cost towards grid parity. It anticipates achieving grid parity by 2022 and parity with coal-based thermal power by 2030.

Area of Expertise

Solairedirect has created a niche in photovoltaic installations, which includes solar parks and rooft ops. The company has shown expertise in the design, production and operation of solar PV rooftops, both for private houses and large industrial buildings. It is also involved in providing building and operating solutions. As an Independent Power Producer (IPP), Solairedirect undertakes power purchase agreements (PPAs), for offering competitive KWh price in the long run. As a provider of turnkey solar farms, the company's Engineering, Procurement and Construction (EPC) services include:

  • Engineering assessment (validating designs) and selecting contractors.
  • Handling grid connection procedures.
  • Executing the construction plan according to a fixed price.
  • Supervising testing and commissioning procedures.
  • Providing comprehensive set of guarantees (penalties, price adjustment mechanism, equipment guarantees) and taking out insurance.

The Road Ahead

As an Independent Power Producer (IPP), Solairedirect aims to provide competitive kWh to the customers and strive to be amongst the leading solar PV IPPs in the country over the long term. The short-term goals encapsulate successfully building the initial projects and creating a portfolio of 300 to 400 MW solar PV projects in the country. The company will be working towards offering competitive solar power to private customers and providing bankable EPC services to companies and partner with them to build long-lasting energy assets.

25% Cost Saving by reducing Distribution Losses

The India story is rapidly unfolding on the global scene; however its failure to get a vital infrastructure like power distribution up to the global standards can surely ‘trip’ this story.

A key challenge now is the poor financial outlook of discoms. Their losses are mounting fast due to the gap between revenue and the cost of power supply. Facing fund crunch, discoms are unable to make necessary capital investment to improve energy efficiency. As a result, non-approval of expenses by state regulators for not meeting efficiency targets and the lack of capital investments by utilities have become a vicious cycle.

Aggregate technical and commercial (AT&C) losses in India still remain significantly higher than similar global benchmarks despite reduction. In order to address some of the issues in this segment, reforms have been undertaken through unbundling the State Electricity Boards into separate Generation, Transmission and Distribution units. In addition, privatisation of power distribution has been initiated either through the public-private partnership (PPP) or the franchisee route; results of all these initiatives have been fairly mixed at best.

The high retail tariffs necessitated by ATC losses, the impact of cross-subsidisation on industrial and commercial consumers coupled with the poor quality of supply in several utilities have forced large industrial consumers to look for alternate sources like the captive route or open access.

From experience, we believe that at least 25% financial savings can be accrued by reducing distribution losses. This can help offset any increase in fuel and energy costs. Reduction of transmission and distribution (T&D) losses should be attempted through metering, feeder separation, introduction of high voltage distribution system (HVDS), metering of distribution transformers and strict anti-theft measures. Distribution PPP and ESCO-based structures should be considered for efficiency improvement. Tata Power Delhi Distribution Ltd, previously known NDPL, is a successful example of distribution reform, which can be replicated across the country.

In addition, alternate models of distribution particularly decentralised distributed generation using renewable and other competitive sources of energy could be effectively used to meet the electricity requirements of the rural and semi-rural communities as well as of the industrial complexes. Tata Power’s Kalinganagar project that supplies to Tata Steel is a good case in point here.

The key issues now are the pace and methodology for a successful reform of distribution. As far as the pace goes, nothing further need be said. The writing is on the wall-- perform or perish. There are a whole host of competing destinations for global investment and failure on our part to provide a supportive infrastructure will drive this elsewhere.

NTPC unit encashes guarantees of 14 firms for missing deadline

New Delhi:NTPC Vidyut Vyapar Nigam Ltd (NVVN) has fined 14 companies, including three in which Lanco Infratech Ltd holds stakes, for missing a crucial project deadline.

NVVN, a unit of state-run NTPC Ltd, has encashed the bank guarantees submitted by these companies as they had not commissioned their solar photovoltaic projects within the 9 January deadline.

The projects to these 14 companies, totalling 70 megawatts (MW), were awarded under the first phase of India’s Jawaharlal Nehru National Solar Mission (JNNSM) by NVVN, the nodal agency for awarding them.

The three companies with equity participation from Lanco are DDE Renewable Energy Ltd, Electromech Maritech Pvt. Ltd and Finehope Allied Energy Pvt. Ltd.

Lanco also holds the engineering, procurement and construction (EPC) contract for their projects.

Among the other companies that were penalized are Amrit Energy Pvt. Ltd and Alex Solar Pvt. Ltd.

A total of Rs28 crore in bank guarantees were encashed, with each project being penalized for around Rs2 crore.

“NVVN has encashed the bank guarantees. They (companies) didn’t meet the deadlines. Lanco, apart from having 105MW, is doing EPC in seven projects and also holds some equity in them,” said Tarun Kapoor, joint secretary at the ministry of new and renewable energy.

“They have lost one portion of the bank guarantee and have been given two more months to commission the project. If they don’t commission it by then, they will be penalized again and will be given another three months for the commissioning,” he added.

Under JNNSM, projects totalling 610MW based on photovoltaic panels (140MW) and solar thermal technology (470MW) were awarded. Another award of 350MW based on photovoltaic panels was recently concluded with power-purchase agreements signed with 22 companies.

While a Lanco spokesperson didn’t respond to a late evening query, a senior NVVN executive, requesting anonymity, said, “The problem is that there is a deadline. We are following the guidelines in letter and spirit and the provision of cancellation of bank guarantees is already there in the power purchase agreement.”

JNNSM aims to install 20,000MW of grid-connected solar power by 2022.

A capacity of 1,000MW will be set up in the mission’s first phase by 2013.

NVVN has encashed the bank guarantees at a time when allegations have been made that Lanco Infratech contravened rules and got solar projects in excess of its entitlement through a network of shell companies.

The allegations were levelled as part of an investigation by Down To Earth magazine published by the Centre for Science and Environment (CSE), a research and advocacy organization.

Lanco has denied the allegations.

“Investigations have revealed that these guidelines were blatantly flouted by Lanco Infratech. This company floated front companies and grabbed no less than nine projects worth 235MW,” CSE had said in a release earlier this month.

According to the allotment rules, a company was entitled to bid for and win one 100MW solar thermal and one 5MW photovoltaic project, making a single bidder eligible for a maximum of 105MW.

“This shows that Lanco has not been taking its work seriously,” Sunita Narain, director-general, CSE, said on Sunday.

“We are inquiring into the allegations. We expect to submit the report by first week of March. If it’s proven, then the projects will be struck off,” said Kapoor.

India has a power generation capacity of 186,655MW, of which only 20,162MW is generated through renewable sources such as solar energy

Bugdet allocation for energy enhanced to Rs 5937 cr

To provide quality and reliable power to all categories of consumers, free power to agricultural sector and assured power to the industries and domestic sectors in the state, the Budget allocation for energy sector was enhanced to 19 per cent of Rs 5,937 crore against last year proposed in the 2012-13 Budget today.

Delivering his budget speech for 2012-13 in the Assembly, State Finance Minister Anam Ramnarayana Reddy said in order to keep up with the ever increasing demand for power, APGENCO has added 540 MW including 500 MW unit-VI of Kothagudem TPS, 39 MW each of Unit-VI Jurala hydel project and one MW solar plant at jurala and programmed to add 100 MW for the remaining period of 2011-12.

Under Renewable Power sector, 955.98 MW capacity projects have been commissioned so far in the state, he said, adding 52.75 MW including 12 MW of Solar power is capacity addition under the sector in the current financial year and another 200 MW capacity projects would be commissioned in 2012. State is providing seven hours of quality and reliable power supply to 29.84 lakh agriculture pump sets in the state and High Voltage Distribution (HVDS) is implmented in the state in 7.06 lakh agriculture services with a total Outlay of Rs 2,268 crore, the Minister said.

Expansion and strengthening of distribution has been done under the Rajiv Gandhi Grameena Vidyutikaran Yojana (RGGVY) and Restructured-Accelerated Power Development and Reforms Programme(R-APDRP) in across rural and urban areas of the state respectively, he added.

Coal India in a spot over supply to power plants

Later this month, when Mr Sriprakash Jaiswal will be meeting top officials from the Ministry as well as Coal India to work out the coal supply modalities for next fiscal, following the recent directive of the Prime Minister's Office (PMO), he may find himself in an unenviable situation.

First, he has to ask CIL to make additional supplies of approximately 50 million tonnes of coal in 2012-13 and, reach them to power stations ignoring concerns on the logistics front.

Jigsaw Puzzle - CIL is currently agreement-bound to supply 90 per cent (trigger level) of the 306 million tonnes requirement to 75 power stations in the country which were commissioned before April 2009.

If the company is now forced to sign fuel supply agreements (FSA) with the projects commissioned during the last two years, the total supply commitment will reach approximately 350 mt during the next fiscal.

Assuming that CIL will achieve a modest 5-6 per cent production growth next fiscal, there will still be a shortfall of 25-30 million tonnes.

Theoretically, the shortfall can be managed by restricting supplies to the existing customers to 90 per cent of requirement. Available estimates suggest many in this category are now enjoying 100 per cent or more supplies.

Pithead Stock

Shortfall in production can be mitigated by diluting the pit-head stock. CIL ended last fiscal with an inventory of 70 mt and an insider suggests that irrespective of the recent rise in off-take, there may not be any significant dilution in stock by the end of this fiscal.

However, evacuation of this stock, dispersed across mines in five states is not easy, courtesy poor evacuation logistics on the part of Railways. Moreover, there are seasonal impediments - such as restricted working hours in summer and poor road conditions in rainy season – in moving coal from mine to railway sidings.

Poor logistics may also prove to be a huge bottleneck in evacuating the augmented production. Sources suggest, criticised from all corners, CIL has launched a hunt to locate assets which can be brought on stream with immediate effect. However, many such assets (as in Rajmahal) do not enjoy adequate evacuation logistics.

The theoretical possibility of meeting shortfall through imports is also difficult to achieve. Even if power producers now agree to pay CIL for imported coal (which they opposed in the past), CIL is not in a position to solve logistics tangle involved in moving the coal from ports to power plants.

Passing the buck

With logistics set to emerge as spoilsport in moving coal to customers, inviting penalties on CIL; the coal major may plead for keeping safety options open with regard to future FSAs. One logical step in this direction could be making power sector partly or fully responsible for lifting the available coal especially from areas which do not have adequate rail logistics.

Rajasthan Amongst World's Best Locations for Solar Energy

With India's highest solar radiation in western Rajasthan, half of India's solar capacity in 2022 could come from this state, says Satya Kumar, managing director of Shri Shakti Alternative Energy Ltd.

The high radiation in combination with a large amount of sunny days in Rajasthan makes it by far the most popular location for projects under the National Solar Mission. The average tariff of all project bids under the second round of the National Solar Mission was as low as Rs.8.78/Kwh.

"The natural reaction of some investors to this outcome was that it's too low. But if you analyse the conditions in Rajasthan, it will become clear that this tariff is viable," says Kumar, who researched a case for a 10MW plant in Rajasthan. Shri Shakti Alernative Energy Ltd is developing the infrastructure for a 100MW private solar park being developed under an MoU with Government of Rajasthan.

"In western Rajasthan, a Capacity Utilisation Factor (CUF) of 21 percent can be achieved," Kumar further explains. "In Germany, the world solar capital, this is typically 13 percent. This means that a 1MW solar plant in western Rajasthan can produce 1.85 million units per year, compared to around 1.6 million units elsewhere in India."

"The conditions in Rajasthan are so favourable, that it will be amongst the most logical places in the world to implement solar power," says Edwin Koot, CEO of Solarplaza, a Netherlands based information platform for international solar energy stakeholders.

Solarplaza is organizing the conference The Solar Future: India II on 29 February in Jaipur. "It's only a matter of time for solar power to take off on a large scale in Rajasthan," says Koot, explaining the choice of location.

Besides attention for the benefits of Rajasthan and other local developments, the conference will host internationally renowned speakers with an eye for global trends and inspirational future visions. This in combination with an informal networking atmosphere gives the event a unique character.

Speakers include Ravindra Raina, President of India operations, Astonfield; Ravi Khanna, CEO of Solar Power Business of Aditya Birla Group; Jigar Shah - CEO, Carbon War Room; Vishal Shah - Managing Director & Senior Analyst Alternative Energy Deutsche Bank; Ashok Bhalotra, Ambassador, KuiperCompagnons; Madan Mohan Vijayvergia - Director (Technical), Rajasthan Renewable Energy Corporation.

‘Country’s energy policy has to evolve with time’

NASHIK: Talking about the ongoing energy crisis the world over, Padma Shri Dr Vijay Bhatkar said that the situation is only set to get worse and all the talks and seminars that have been organized regarding the issue will prove short.

"As far as India is concerned, it is important that our energy policy is focused on strengthening non-conventional sources of energy and for that, the government must take the help of non-governmental organizations (NGO) working in the field. The policy has to evolve," Bhatkar, who is also the president of Vijnana Bharati, said.

The internationally acclaimed scientist and philosopher was in Nashik for the inauguration of the two-day Maharashtra Vijnana Sammelan organized at CHMES's Bhonsala Military College, Nashik, and co-organized by KK Wagh Education Society.

Speaking to the press after the inauguration, Bhatkar said that given the fact that India's power requirement is set to grow five times of its size at present by the year 2050, and it would be very hard to imagine what sources of power could be used to fulfill the demand, since fossil fuel stocks all over the planet are fast depleting.

"There has to be a shift from fossil fuels to hydrogen and this will not happen in a day. Current experiments in non-conventional power sources are to be watched keenly. There are great things being developed all around. We need to harness them for a better tomorrow. But this will require government support, and that can happen only with policy decisions," Bhatkar said.

When asked why solar energy was still not that popular in the country, Bhatkar said, "There is no doubt that various lobbies are acting very strongly against the popularization of the solar power cell. This will continue to happen unless there is a demand from citizens. This is why energy literacy is required. For the same reason, Vijnana Bharati has been taking the message of optimal power usage to children across schools in Maharashtra and other states, starting with 1,500 students from some schools."

Bhatkar said that Vijnana Bharati is working on a model of a self-reliant village in Madhya Pradesh. "The Urjagram (set-up) will exhibit the use of science for common man and it will be a picture of an energy self-reliant village," Bhatkar said.