'Sunshine' sector: Despite disruptions from the COVID-19 pandemic, investor appetite has been buoyed by falling prices | Photo: Mercom India

The 2020 Renewables news round up

Disruptions due to the COVID-19 pandemic proved to be temporary hiccups, with all signs pointing to strong sectoral growth

Solar tariffs fall to a new record low of ₹2/unit India; but ACME cancels contract of India’s previous record-setting deal

India’s solar power tariff continued to decline in 2020. The latest all-time low was of ₹1.99 per kWh bid in the Gujarat auction. This came within a month of Solar Corporation of India (SECI) tender in Rajasthan auction wherein a tariff of ₹2 per kWh was quoted.

Before that, India set a low tariff of ₹2.36/kWh in a 2GW auction by SECI. This was about 3.3% lower than the previous lowest bid of ₹2.44 (~$0.032)/kWh, which was won by ACME in 2017 and 2018. Even before that, low tariffs of ₹2.50 to ₹2.87 per unit, were 20-30% cheaper than the cost of coal-generated power. 

India’s ACME Solar cancelled its record ₹2.44  ($0.0323)/kWh tariff contract over land acquisition delays coupled with delays over disruptions in supplies from China because the pandemic forced them to claim an exit under “force majeure”.

And lastly, an IEEFA study this year said solar tariffs in UAE and Saudi Arabia work out less than a rupee per unit, which is far cheaper than India’s lowest tariffs of ₹1.99, because they offer long-term loans at low interest rates, they don’t have corporate taxes, their duties on equipment are negligible and land costs are low.

India-China border dispute pushes domestic solar manufacturing, delay projects 

The COVID-19 pandemic coupled with border tensions between India and China proved an impetus for India’s solar manufacturers. India extended the safeguard duty (SGD) on solar imports from China, Thailand and Vietnam by another year to boost manufacturing.  

Border tensions impacted Indian solar energy projects. The consignments that the developers have already paid were stuck at the ports, delaying the projects across the country, which imports around 65% of the panels from China. India decided to raise basic Custom duties on Chinese solar products by 40% in a year. Experts said the country requires solar modules worth ₹15,000 crore per year, and  80% of it is imported.

Resilient renewables: Despite COVID-19, renewables overtake coal, wind-solar hybrid projects rise globally

This year, IEEFA and IRENA reported that there was plenty of appetite among domestic and foreign investors to build renewable infrastructure despite COVID-19. The pandemic added to the decline in the capital cost of solar and the cost of funding. So COVID-19, in fact, hastened the switch from polluting coal power to renewable energy in India, the reports stated.  

The COVID-19 lockdown also forced India to extend deadlines to complete renewable energy projects. It also agreed to consider the pandemic-related disruption in the supply chains as force majeure

India seems to be emerging as a strong renewables market with the IEA’s World Energy Outlook stating that the country will lead the demand for energy globally over the next 10 years when solar power is expected to lead the surge in renewable power supply

On the ground, an analysis of tenders by the centre and states by IEEFA revealed India’s total wind-solar hybrid capacity is expected to reach 11.7 GW by 2023. The report stated the wind-solar hybrid capacity will rise at a compound annual growth rate of 223% from 2020-2023. 

Meanwhile, according to the European Commission’s draft plan, the off-shore wind energy capacity of the EU in the North Sea, the Baltic, the Atlantic, the Mediterranean and the Black Sea will increase 25-fold. Once backed by subsidy, the offshore wind power farms in the UK will soon be paying to produce power after a dramatic drop in the offshore wind power costs. 

India sets new RE target of 220 GW by 2022, green-term market to buy and sell RE launched

This year, India announced it will increase its clean energy capacity from 134 GW now to 220 GW by 2022. The government said India’s state-owned oil companies will be able to operate at least 50% of their fuel stations on renewable energy by 2025.

In keeping with the growing momentum, India also launched the Green Renewable Energy Term Ahead Market (G-TAM), which will help states with surplus renewables to sell, while the buyers will be able to procure energy as well as meet the renewable purchase obligations (RPOs). 

Scientists reach magic 30% efficiency limit through perovskite/silicon tandem solar cells, Green Hydrogen makes a strong debut 

Scientists set the current world record this year of 29.15% efficiency for a tandem solar cell made of perovskite and silicon. Solar cells consisting of two semiconductors with differing band gaps can achieve much higher efficiencies when used in tandem compared to the individual cells on their own. The tandem cell provided stable performance for 300 hours – even without encapsulation. 

Earlier in 2020, China proposed to increase the solar quality standards, which required solar mono cells to have 21% efficiency and modules to be 17.8% efficient, to 23% and 20% respectively. 

Hydrogen produced from renewable energy-powered electrolyzers, also called green hydrogen, took off globally this year. Seven international companies announced a global coalition that will accelerate the scale and production of green hydrogen 50-fold in the next six years. Green hydrogen plants are being built in a number of nations, with US power giant NextEra becoming one of the latest companies to join the movement. Green hydrogen could even help us decarbonise the steel industry  through disruptive technology breakthroughs in the heavy industry sector.

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