India allocated Rs 22,000 crore (~$3.08 billion) for the power and renewable sector, raising the funds to the renewable energy ministry by 10.62% for 2020/21. The budget also laid emphasis on expanding the solar sector, including installing solar panels along railway tracks and expanding solar pumps scheme for farmers. Centre also extended lower tax rates to utilities, which some experts say should mostly help boost renewable energy. The government has also urged state governments to implement smart meters in three years, which would give consumers the right to choose suppliers and the rate.
India’s plan to set up solar panels on railway lands clash with its afforestation plans?
To boost solar power generation, India has decided to set up solar panels along rail tracks and on barren land to achieve its renewable energy capacity target of 175 gigawatts by 2022. Its renewable capacity rose 16% to 85.9 GW in 2019, while coal-fired capacity rose 3.9% to 198.5 GW, Reuters reported. But the railway lands are also what the environment ministry is eyeing to use for plantations to meet its climate commitments. Government’s own report Strategy for Increasing Green Cover Outside Recorded Forest Areas, released by the MoEFCC in 2018, talks about the importance of railway and fallow lands for undertaking plantations to keep India’s commitments.
A pilot project of installing solar panels along railway tracks was successfully completed in Bina in Madhya Pradesh. It was the first time a solar plant was set up jointly by Railways and BHEL. Power drawn from this will be used to run trains, ET reported.
Centre imposes 20% duty on solar imports
In a boost to domestic solar manufacturers India will raise tariffs on imports of solar cells and modules in the budget, to protect local manufacturing of such equipment and discouraging low-quality Chinese imports. A basic customs duty (BCD) of 20% on cells and modules will come into effect soon. Such equipment earlier did not attract any BCD. The government in 2018 imposed a safeguard duty on solar cells and modules imported from China and Malaysia. This duty is supposed to end in July.
Budget 2020: Solar power’s allocation rises by 10%
The Union Budget outlay for the solar sector for 2020-21 is Rs 2,516 crore, including both grid-interactive and off-grid projects. It is a 10.35% increase over Rs2,280 crore provided in the Revised Estimate for 2019-20. The allocation for grid-interactive solar power projects at Rs2,150 crore accounts for 50.57% of the total budgetary allocation of Rs4,350 crore for grid-connected renewable energy projects. The outlay for the wind energy projects for the current financial year stands at Rs1,303 crore. The last budget the outlay was ₹9.20 billion ($130 million) for wind power, ₹30.05 billion ($440 million) for solar (both grid-connected and off-grid).
India to expand solar pumps scheme
In a move to double farmer income by 2022, and boost solar energy installations, India will expand the Pradhan Mantri Kisan Urja Suraksha evam Utthan Mahabhiyan (KUSUM) to provide 2 million additional farmers with standalone solar pumps. Surplus electricity generated by farmers will be bought by discoms to help boost India’s emerging green economy. About 1.5 million farmers will get help to shift to solar power pumps from grid-connected pump sets, LiveMint reported. India plans to double the capacity of the solar panels, which would help farmers sell at least 50% of the electricity generated. By earlier estimates, the scheme was to involve an expenditure of about Rs1.4 trillion. Finance minister Nirmala Sitharaman said farmers will be helped to set up solar power generation units on the lands they own and sell surplus power to the solar grid “to make a living out of even barren land.”
3 solar developers cancel contracts over delay in clearances
Adding to a sectoral slowdown, three major solar power plant developers faced cancellation of contracts with state-run NTPC over delays in regulatory approvals, potentially disrupting 1,400MW worth renewable energy capacity.
The contracts were signed in what was the first interstate transmission system (ISTS)-connected solar auction conducted by NTPC, India’s largest power generation utility, for building power plants and supplying 2,000MW in August 2018. While Acme Solar Holdings, Shapoorji Pallonji Infrastructure Capital Co. Ltd and New York Stock Exchange-listed Azure Power Global Ltd bid ₹2.59 per kilo-watt hour (kWh) to build plants of 600MW, 500MW and 300MW each, respectively, SoftBank-owned SB Energy bid ₹2.60 per kWh to develop 600MW solar contract.
Indonesia to replace old coal power plants with renewable energy plants
Indonesia has decided to replace coal fired plants aged 20 years and older with plants using renewable energy. The government is expected to replace up to 69 units of coal-fired power plants and coal gas-fired power plants, with a combined power capacity of over 11GW of electricity. Indonesia uses coal to generate 60% of its electricity needs, it is a major coal exporter. Now the country is aiming to double the contribution of renewables, which include solar power, geothermal and hydropower, among others.