Plotting access: A new draft policy for Distributed Renewable Energy may facilitate easy and reliable end-user access to energy in rural villages and town, which is a crucial gap for India’s rural economy | Photo:

India proposes draft policy to back Distributed RE

The Centre has proposed a draft policy for Distributed Renewable Energy driven projects in small towns and villages in India. The government will support the adoption of PV-powered dryers, cold storage and charkhas (cotton-spinning wheels), as well as solar lighting systems, through DRE. 

The government will back a market-oriented framework to attract the private sector for development and deployment of DRE livelihood applications, provide easy access to end-user finance, introduce standards, monitoring and evaluation mechanisms. The draft allows assessment of demand for the DRE deployment to map needs of beneficiaries. MNRE will develop a list of DRE livelihood applications in consultation with stakeholders, which will be updated regularly, the draft says.

The distributed solar products rural market such as solar lanterns, pump sets and mini-grids was estimated to grow to ₹10,117 crore by 2023 before the outbreak of COVID-19. It is now facing a financial crunch. The draft policy is open for comments till November 2, 2020.

Solar manufacturers get another exemption from Indian Standards certification  

The Centre has extended exemption of Bureau of indian Standards certification of solar module manufacturers with production capacity of less than 50 MW. Mercom reported that nearly 80 module manufacturers in the country have a production capacity under 50 MW. The extension was announced in view of COVID-19 crisis. The domestic solar lobby asked the government to exempt the BIS certification for as long as their International Electrotechnical Commission (IEC) certificates are valid.

The government said once the IEC certificates expire, manufacturers are expected to register under the BIS mandatorily. Domestic manufacturers complain that acquiring BIS certificates slows down the pace of adopting new technology. Mercom reported that BIS has not issued registration certificates for imported modules since July 2020.

India’s rooftop solar installations grew despite COVID-19, thanks to state schemes

Solar rooftop capacity grew despite COVID-19 restrictions, but new large-scale solar PV volumes shrank well short of estimated 7-8 GW.  India added around 2.32 GW of solar capacity in the first nine months of this year. The projection was made before COVID-19 restrictions surfaced. According to a JMK Research study that cited official data, the new generation capacity included 1,437 MW of ground-mounted projects and 883 MW of rooftop solar.  

However, rooftop installations appear to have maintained momentum despite coronavirus lockdowns, with Gujarat accounting for 43% of new systems, PV-Magazine reported. 

According to official data, Rajasthan led the way for large-scale PV this year, with 360 MW of new capacity, closely followed by Tamil Nadu (341 MW). In the rooftop solar sector, Gujarat topped with 380 MW of new systems thanks to effective state schemes, particularly the Surya Urja Rooftop Yojana program, which targets rooftop generation for 8 lakh residential consumers by March 2022. The scheme offers a 40% state subsidy for systems with a generation capacity of up to 3 KW.

Study: India should adopt indexed solar tariffs to ease discom dues, hasten coal exit

To ease the mounting payment dues of discoms and hasten early closure of end-of-life coal plants, the government should adopt an indexed renewable energy tariff structure that would save discoms up to ₹21,880 crore (US$3 billion) over the next five years, according to a joint report by IEEFA and CEEW. 

The report proposed a lower first-year tariff of ₹2/kWh, which would rise at a predetermined index rate (below the inflation rate) for the first 15 years, and then remain flat at the year-15 rate for the balance 10-year power purchase agreement (PPA) life. According to the authors, front-ending renewable energy tariffs at parity with the prevailing variable charge for coal-fired power would help discoms to hasten the switch from polluting coal to RE.

The report states that a thermal tariff of Rs4/KWh, discoms pay Rs2/KWh of fixed capacity charge for the contracted capacity in the PPA–even if no power is drawn from the plant. The remaining ₹2/KWh is the variable charge (landed fuel cost + production costs), which is paid for every unit of power drawn from the plant. The report noted that the need for indexed tariff over flat solar tariffs to displace coal would taper off by 2025-26 as flat solar tariffs would decline below ₹2.00/kWh levels.

Australia pushes mega $36 billion renewable energy, hydrogen project 

Australia will fast-track the Asian Renewable Energy Hub (AREH), a $36 billion project that aims to initially build 15 GW of power capacity and eventually expand to 26 GW. The country will grant it the tag of “major project status” which at full capacity, could generate up to 100 terawatt hours a year. 

Australia generated 265 terawatt hours last year. The site is 6,500 square kilometres, more than double the size of Luxembourg, in the arid Pilbara region. Australia expected the project to export at scale and also provide for industries in the region. 

The project has switched from a plan to produce wind and solar power and transmit it to Asia, to a plan to use clean power to split water and produce hydrogen and then ammonia for export, Reuters reported.

China’s Envision Energy commissions 40 MW wind farm in France  

Chinese turbine maker Envision Energy announced wind energy projects in France. The company commissioned a 40-MW wind farm, located in the French region of Burgundy-Franche-Comte, and announced another project in France. The group developed Entre Tille et Venelle through its French subsidiary Velocita Energies. With 16 units of EN131-2.5MW turbines installed, the project represents the first deployment of Envision’s hardware in France.

Envision Energy has designed and adapted the turbines specifically for the Burgundy-Franche-Comte region and spaced them more than 900 metres (2,953 ft) from any home, which is nearly twice the 500-metre regulatory distance. The project will generate 107 GWh of power per year, or enough to meet annual electricity needs of 50,000 people.

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