Bounce-back year? After registering the lowest growth in five years in 2020, all eyes are on solar energy performance in 2021 | Photo: Eqmagpro

‘Lowest in 5 years’: India added just 3GW solar capacity in 2020

According to a Mercom study, India’s solar capacity addition in 2020 at 3.2 GW, was down 56% compared to 7.3 GW it installed in 2019. India’s total solar installed capacity was at 39 GW gigawatt (GW) as of December 2020, in which big utilities accounted for 78% of installations with 2,520 MW, down 60% year-on-year.

The rooftop solar additions were at 719 MW also down 22% compared to the installation in 2019. Andhra Pradesh, Rajasthan, and Gujarat topped with large-scale solar capacity additions, representing around 51% of 2020 installations. The report said besides COVID-19, the reasons for decline included the rise in module prices, increased shipping and freight charges in the range of 500%-800% and a surge in raw material costs. Government agencies also failed to get distribution companies (DISCOMs) to sign power sale agreements (PSA), resulting in about 17-18 GW of projects without a PSA, the report said.

Centre clarifies: Only grid-connected solar rooftop owners eligible for incentives

The Centre issued clarification that only the grid-connected rooftop solar systems installed in the area of the DISCOM would be considered for the calculation of incentives. The projects off the grid called ‘behind-the-meter’ systems, won’t get incentives. The incentives will be applicable as per the benchmark cost issued by the Ministry of New and Renewable Energy (MNRE) for the capacity of above 10 kW up to 100 kW or the lowest bidder for that state or union territory, whichever is lower.

The developers had sought clarifications to the operational guidelines the MNRE had issued way back in August 2019, to implement the second phase of its grid-connected rooftop solar photovoltaic programme. The Centre also clarified that the state and private discoms would be eligible for advance central financial assistance (CFA) up to 30% of the total CFA. 

Tariff war: In a win for companies, Gujarat discom told to extend validity of scrapped auction   

In a breather for developers, the Appellate Tribunal for Electricity (APTEL) directed the discom Gujarat Urja Vikas Nigam Limited  (GUVNL) to extend the validity of bids placed by developers in its scrapped 700 MW solar auction by two weeks. It also directed the state distribution company (DISCOM) not to allocate the capacities awarded to the developers to third parties if it decided to float the 700 MW tender again.

Companies such as SJVN Limited, Tata Power, TEQ Green Power (a subsidiary of O2 Power), and Vena Energy Renewables had approached APTEL seeking relief following GUVNL’s decision to reissue its 700 MW solar tender. The Gujarat Electricity Regulatory Commission (GERC) had allowed GUVNL to cancel the auction and re-tender it to discover a lower tariff for the projects. The industry severely criticised this move since the tender was scrapped over five months after the auction was concluded and letters of award were issued. The state DISCOM wanted to discover lower tariffs in another auction.

Wind energy developers approach HC, say Andhra Pradesh discoms have not paid since March 2020

Wind energy companies have now filed interlocutory appeals in the Andhra Pradesh high court against the state discoms for not making payments since March 2020. The Andhra Pradesh government attempted to renegotiate solar and wind Power Purchase Agreements (PPAs) signed and sealed by the previous state government, saying it maintains the erstwhile government had signed them at disproportionately high rates, alleging there was corruption involved.

In late 2019, the court directed the discoms to pay a tariff of Rs2.43 per unit to all wind developers henceforth, the record low wind tariff at the time, till the matter was resolved. But developers complained that they have not received any payment after March 2020 even at the interim rate.

BSES discoms install over 3,000 rooftop solar net metering connections

Pushing rooftop solar in Delhi, discoms BSES Rajdhani Power Limited (BRPL) and BSES Yamuna Power Limited (BYPL) installed over 3,000 rooftop solar net metering connections with a connected solar load of 106 Mwp (Megawatt peak) since 2015. The discoms are aiming to install 1,000 solar rooftop connections by 2022. The discoms said consumers, including residential and commercial establishments, have accepted rooftop solar net metering in a big way.

According to BSES data, the highest number of rooftop solar net metering connections are in the domestic segment (1,805), followed by educational institutions (655), commercial establishments (554), industrial (35) and others (91).

UN regional meet to focus on energy transition in Asia Pacific during COVID-19

The United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific ESCAP Committee on Energy along with 53 countries, including India, will discuss energy transition in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic, focusing on policy solutions for a greener and inclusive energy future in Asia and the Pacific. 

From February 24 to 26, the committee will review the draft regional roadmap on power system connectivity along with regional and national policies to support energy access, renewable energy, and energy efficiency. ESCAP reviews progress made towards achieving Sustainable Development Goal 7 (SDG7) on energy in the region.

Africa’s solar ‘gigawatt club’ adds 9 more countries 

The first annual African Solar Energy Outlook 2021 report was released by the Africa Solar Industry Association (AFSIA). According to the report, nine more African countries joined South Africa and Egypt to become part of the solar ‘gigawatt club’, which has 37 countries. The ‘gigawatt club’ includes countries with installed capacity to produce 1 GW of solar power. The nine countries that are developing their solar infrastructure are Algeria, Zimbabwe, Zambia, Democratic Republic of Congo, Angola, Namibia, Ethiopia, Morocco and Botswana, the report said.

Nearly half the world’s population without access to electricity (591 million) is in sub-Saharan Africa, according to the International Energy Association.

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