Overburdened: India’s Central Electricity Authority has had to step in as its DISCOMS’ debt to clean power developers soars to a mammoth $420million| Photo: MIT Technology Review

DISCOM dues soar at ₹30 billion, regulator to alert power generators on high-risk discoms

Power developers will know in advance who are the high-risk clients (discoms) when it comes to payments. The Central Electricity Authority (CEA) will maintain a record of dues discoms owe to companies. The CEA will share the data with power developers to alert them on likely defaulters. According to the latest CEA data, discoms owe over ₹3,012 crore (US$420 million) to renewable energy projects totalling around 6GW. Experts say payment delays and unilateral attempts to redraw power purchase agreements, like in the case of Andhra Pradesh, have threatened billions of dollars in investments. To make the process transparent and insure that defaulters don’t get power, CEA has launched an online portal, PRAAPTI, short for Payment Ratification And Analysis in Power Procurement, to keep power generators informed.

The non-payment of dues impact developers’ ratings. Ratings agency CARE recently downgraded 11 solar firms with a combined capacity of 574 MW to negative because of the ‘weakening liquidity’  resulting from payment delays from Telangana discoms. CARE said Telangana’s severely cash-strapped state power firms survive on subsidies.

Saga to end well? Andhra Pradesh will review only corrupt contracts, not all PPAs

Pressured from the Centre, high court, energy firms and even the Japanese ambassador, the new Andhra Pradesh government will not review all contracts between the previous government and power companies, to get them to lower tariffs. ET quoted official sources saying the government will target only corrupt projects. Earlier, power companies got a stay on re-writing of contracts from the Andhra Pradesh high court till August 22. But the state government hit back by curtailing wind power. 

Andhra Pradesh has already met its Renewable Purchase Obligation (RPO) and an addition of more wind and solar power will depend on the tariff, a top official told ET.  Meanwhile, the high court has ordered Andhra Pradesh to stop curtailing renewable power. The Japanese ambassador to India Kenji Hiramatsu has warned CM Reddy that investors are watching the situation closely.  

Coal vs Renewables: Renewables won 80% of bank finance, coal lost 90% of lending in 2018

Coal finance lost big time to renewables in 2018. Firstly, coal power plants lost 90% of its finance in 2018 compared to 2017, receiving only ₹6,081 crore. While lending to renewables grew by ₹1,529 crore to Rs22,442 crore. Secondly, most of the money coal plants got was state capital, while 80% of the private bank finance went to renewables. These are the conclusions of “Coal versus Renewables Finance Analysis” by Delhi-based think tank, the Centre for Financial Accountability (CFA). The CFA assessment of  lendings to 54 energy projects revealed that of total ₹30,524 crore, 80% lendings, were siphoned off by renewable energy projects, the rest went to coal-fired power plants.

India needs $700 billion to achieve 523GW by 2030 target: IEEFA

The latest research by the Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis (IEEFA) says India will require around $500-700 billion in renewables investments in the next 10 years to meet its ambitious renewable energy targets. According to IEEFA, India has set targets of 144 GW by 2022, and 523 GW by 2030, which are highly “achievable with the right policy”. The report cites the survey by Singapore-based EDHEC Infrastructure Institute (EDHECinfra) and Global Infrastructure Hub (GI Hub) that said at least 130 global asset owners with a total of $10 trillion of assets saw India as the best market for infrastructure growth potential among the growing economies.

In 2019, renewables surge of 2018 missing, developers give solar auctions a miss

The 2018 surge in renewables is not catching up in 2019 as much. Latest auctions in Gujarat witnessed mostly a no-show by project developers. Against the tendered capacity of 950MW, the Gujarat Urja Vikas Nigam Limited (GUVNL) finalised bids for only 150 MW. The industry is blaming the current uncertainty triggered by the central government’s plans to hike up import duty on solar power equipment and the extension of safeguard duty on solar imports to boost domestic manufacturing of solar equipment. Experts also say the tariffs to be quoted in solar auctions are capped too low to be financially viable. 

US challenges WTO decision that favoured India in solar subsidy case

The US has challenged World Trade Organisation’s (WTO) decision favouring India in the solar energy case. The WTO panel had ruled against the US saying its domestic policy and solar subsidies provided by eight of its states violate global trade norms. The US has now moved WTO’s higher Appellate Body against the decision. India had dragged the US to the WTO over the issue in 2016. Washington, California, Montana, Massachusetts, Connecticut, Michigan, Delaware and Minnesota were the eight states providing subsidies, which India said were against global trade norms. The Geneva-based appellate body can uphold, modify or reverse the WTO panel’s decision. If the body’s ruling goes against India, the country will have to comply with the order in six-seven months.

In China, solar power is now cheaper than grid-supplied fossil fuel power

Is China’s solar energy approaching grid parity decades ahead of expectation? The latest study published in British journal Nature Energy says the price of solar power has become cheaper than grid-supplied power in nearly 350 cities across China, marking a crucial “inflection point” in the world’s biggest emitter’s use of renewable energy. This means that Chinese cities can now offer lower electricity prices from solar photovoltaics than from the grid, without relying on government subsidies.

Australian watchdog sues 4 wind farm firms over 2016 blackout

Australia has dragged to court four wind farm operators – AGL Energy and France’s Neoen SA, New Zealand’s Tilt Renewables Ltd and Chinese state-owned Pacific Hydro – over a state-wide blackout in South Australia in 2016. The regulators have alleged that several power-generating units of the accused companies contravened regulations over a period of several months, not just on stormy September 28, 2016, the day of the blackout. South Australia is the country’s most wind power-reliant state. The regulator is targeting penalties of up to $67,220 per contravention. The companies failed to ensure their plants met requirements to be able to ride through system disturbances, the regulator said.

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