Whichever way the wind blows: Flip-flopping again, the Centre has scrapped the just-announced custom duty on imported solar panels and modules and invited suggestions from manufacturers on exemptions | Photo: Mercom India

After increasing Customs duty on solar products to 20% in Union budget, government drops it back to zero

Following the budget 2020 announcement that solar PV cells and modules will attract 20% basic Customs duty, the government has clarified that effective basic Customs duty on solar products would be zero. The Centre has asked solar PV manufacturers to submit a list of machines and goods they would like to be off the list of products attracting basic Customs duty. There has been uncertainty in the industry over the effective rate of basic Customs duty on solar imports. The budget had split the tariffs into two categories – unassembled solar cells, or solar cells assembled into modules or panels; both of which would incur a duty of 20%. Earlier, solar products falling under either of these categories were considered the same and did not attract any basic Custom duty, however, imported solar cells and modules had been attracting a progressive safeguard duty over the past two years to promote domestic manufacturing.

Govt to set up special board to minimise risks for RE developers from state policies

Recent disputes regarding renewable energy projects and state government policies, most notably in Andhra Pradesh, has prompted the government to set up a board to address discord between state governments and renewable energy developers and minimise risks to investors. The Ministry of New and Renewable Energy (MNRE) issued an order on 18 February for the establishment of a Renewable Energy Promotion and Facilitation Board, which will work with developers and state governments in order to ensure smooth implementation of projects and financial institutions to ease the availability of finance for renewable projects. The move comes in light of waning investor interest in renewable projects in the country ostensibly due to states that have sought to cancel or review existing contracts. The board, which is due to meet once every 15 days, will include three joint secretaries from MNRE, senior officials from the ministries of finance and power, the Central Electricity Authority, the Central Electricity Regulatory Commission, National Thermal Power Corporation, REC, Power Finance Corp, Indian Renewable Energy Development Agency (Ireda) and Solar Energy Corp of India.

Tariffs for solar plus storage drop to record low of Rs4.04/unit in latest auctions 

After the 2017 record low tariff of Rs2.44 per unit, the solar energy sector served yet another body blow to polluting coal power, this time tariffs for assured solar power, with storage, dropped to Rs4.04, lower than Rs4.24 per unit coal power tariff discovered at recent auctions by PFC and NHPC. SECI’s latest 1200MW solar storage auction was bagged by Greenko and RFeNew for the average tariff of both peak and non-peak hours for Rs4.04. In peak hours, discoms dish out up to Rs6.5 to buy power from the open market to meet demand.

Boost to wind energy: India to drop ceiling tariffs from wind energy auctions 

In what could be a massive boost to the wind energy sector, the Centre plans to drop tariff ceiling on wind tenders. The industry has been demanding the government stop imposing tariff ceilings. Recently all solar and wind tenders by the Solar Energy Corporation of India (SECI) have imposed tariff ceilings above which bids were not accepted. Renewable energy developers complain that tariff ceilings are too low to be economically viable and stops industry from taking part in auctions. SECI’s most recent wind tender has been postponed five times because of tepid participation. The ceiling tariff for it was Rs2.93 per unit, ET reported.

Meanwhile, Gujarat recently proposed to stop the practice of setting generic tariff for wind projects. The state government has sought public opinion on its discussion paper on tariff determination. 

Govt to sell 100% stake of state-run solar manufacturing firm CEL

India has decided to sell 100% stake and privatise Central Electronics Limited. State-owned CEL is a pioneer in India in the field of Solar Photovoltaic (SPV). It developed India’s first solar cell in 1977 and first solar panel in 1978 as well as commissioning India’s first solar plant in 1992. CEL developed and manufactured the first crystalline flexible solar panel, especially for use on passenger train roofs in 2015. CEL’s creations have been qualified to International Standards IEC 61215/61730. CEL is further working on developing a range of new and upgraded products for signaling and telecommunication in the railway sector, ET reported. 

Parliamentary panel slams Centre for missing renewable energy targets 

A Parliamentary panel on energy slammed the Centre for failing to meet annual capacity addition targets. The House panel warned India won’t be able to meet 175GW by 2022 target at this rate. Consider this: The government could achieve only 11,319 MW of grid-connected RE capacity addition against a target of 16,560 MW in 2016-17. It managed to achieve only 11,876 MW of the targeted 14,445 MW in 2017-18. Similarly, during 2018-19, only 8,519 MW could be installed against the target of 15,355 MW, a shortfall of 44.50%, ET reported. Data from the renewable energy ministry’s own website shows for the current financial (2019-20), the ministry had managed to achieve 4,272 MW of the targeted 11,852 MW grid-connected capacity by the end of September. Data shows 7,592 MW of renewable energy capacity has been added in the current fiscal year as of December 2019. Performance in the solar rooftop segment was dismal. The ministry had achieved 537 MW by December 2019 against the annual target of 1,000 MW.

India’s renewables sector attracted Rs132,626 crore investment since 2017

Power minister RK Singh told Parliament that India witnessed a huge Rs1,32,626 crore investment in the country’s renewable energy sector in the past three years since April 2017. In the solar power segment alone, a total investment of Rs37,451 crore and Rs26,116.8 crore were made in 2017-18 and 2018-19, respectively. This includes Rs55,436 crore investment made in 2017-18, Rs40,459 crore invested in 2018-19 and Rs36,729 crore investment done in the first nine months of the current financial year (2019-20). In the solar power segment alone, a total investment of Rs37,451 crore and Rs26,116.8 crore were made in 2017-18 and 2018-19, respectively. Solar power projects worth Rs22,199 crore were set up in the current fiscal till December. The minister said as on January 1, 2020, the country has installed 85.90 GW of renewable energy capacity, which constitutes 23% of total installed power generation capacity in the country.

Chennai Metro to be powered by renewable energy 

Chennai Metro has decided to run on renewable energy such as wind, solar, and wind-solar hybrid. It will draw 90 million units (MUs)/year of solar energy, 72 MUs/year wind, and 90 MUs/year wind-solar hybrid projects. Metros in various states have adopted renewable power to fuel their energy requirements recently. Uttar Pradesh Electricity Regulatory Commission (UPERC) allowed the Noida Metro Rail Corporation Limited (NMRC) to install 10 MW of rooftop solar power projects with a net metering facility. In 2019, the Delhi Metro Rail Corporation began using power from waste to energy projects set up by the East Delhi Waste Processing Company Limited in Gazipur, Uttar Pradesh, Mercom reported.