Thursday , 13 December 2018
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Energizing boost to Goa’s solar power needs

A shot of energy for solar power generation is around the corner with a new solar policy promising higher incentives, reports Shoma Patnaik

Goa’s solar power sector is due for action with the government expected to come out with a new solar policy.  According to the government, the policy will transform power supply in the state by fast-tracking projects and generate clean energy.

It is expected to encourage people to generate solar power for consumption and sell the surplus to the state. Sources in government said that, the policy document is already drafted and likely to be put up for suggestions shortly.

Stakeholders who are in the business of providing solar panels, batteries, water pumps, heaters, etc., are upbeat over the prospects of a new policy. Over the last one month the government has been in consultation with them for drafting the document, and the prevailing mood is that, the policy will be bang on in effectiveness this time.

The state’s capability in solar power is sure to improve owing to the favorable measures proposed in the future policy, as per stakeholders, who added that, the first solar policy, viz. the Goa State Solar Policy- 2017 had several issues that were left unaddressed.

The most significant of all issues was that of tariff paid by the electricity department on surplus power sold to the grid. The Joint Electricity Regulatory Commission (JERC) had recommended a tariff of Rs eight per unit which was unviable to the government.  As a result the electricity department pulled back from implementing the 2017 policy and solar power never really took off in the state. The other major concern was on incentives by way of subsidy paid to producers.

It is learnt the government is likely to fix the power purchase tariff rate at about Rs four per unit in the reworked solar policy. The subsidy is expected to be decided at flat rate of 50 per cent of the capital cost of the project (state subsidy 20 per cent and central subsidy 30 per cent) compared to the previous mode of  giving a 50 per cent grant towards interest free loan recoverable in installments over a period of time.

According to the Goa Energy Development Agency (GEDA), that is responsible for boosting the use of non-conventional and renewable energy, the number of solar projects in the state is estimated at about 90-odd systems currently with capacity pegged in the region of four MW. A chunk of the capacity is of 50 kwh -5 kwh owned by individual and commercial consumers such as hotels, while large plants of about one MW or more have yet to come up.

Large capacity solar plants that are in the pipeline includes, companies like CIPLA, ONGC, NCOR and institutions such as the Goa State Pollution Control Board and MPT.

Goa’s electricity tariffs are among the lowest in India. It is the only state where the hike in tariffs was less than five per cent in the last few years.  The electricity tariff for industrial consumers is about Rs 6 per unit while comparatively industrial consumers in Maharashtra are charged Rs 9 per unit. This has made industry apathetic to solar plants with only few units coming up with plans to set up captive solar plants.

However the trend is likely to change in future because of the stringent renewable power obligations (RPO) imposed on the state. To meet the RPO obligations and also to reduce the energy bill the state is pushing consumers to go in for solar power (see box).

Ground level check reveals that, the state’s solar power generation is still unexplored but interest in setting up rooftop or ground mounted projects is gradually increasing. In recent months, several establishments have commissioned small solar power projects to cut down on expenditure and be assured of regular power. The untapped potential in solar power is attracting players from other states.

Mumbai based, Waaree Energies Ltd., set up franchise office in Panaji last week with company officials aiming to tap the institutional as well as individual segment of the market. Nitin Kapadnis, SBU Head, said that, the company has a three MW project lined up for an industrial client as well as a 700 kwh, roof-top project for a commercial customer.

Meanwhile existing solar system suppliers are also optimistic about the future. Amol Shirodkar, director, Amrova Power, old Goa, a supplier of solar systems, said that, awareness of the benefits of solar power is increasing among residents. “We have 800 kwh of projects awaiting approval from GEDA,” said Shirodkar.

Another solar supplier, SR Shirodkar, director, Sai Solar, Margao, said that, small-sized solar plants look entirely feasible for households and commercial establishment as they are low in maintenance. According to local suppliers of solar systems, the rate of return on investment at the current level of tariff proposed by the government is around four-five years.

The forthcoming solar policy looks promising, but its success depends on how much it encourages larger solar power generation. It is also not clear whether the electricity department will approach the JERC for fixing the tariff for mega level plants.

The state electricity department has made tie-ups with renewable energy generators to meet its RPO obligations for the future. The department is in advance stage of finalization of 125 MW solar with NTPC Solar and envisages the supply to start from second half of 2020-21. Further, a tie-up is also with the SECI for 100 MW of wind power.

 

Industry must arrange for its own power in future, says electricity department

For industry there is no option to solar power, going by what is revealed by the electricity department in its business plan document, period 2019-22. The document, discloses that, Goa’s future power requirements will increase due to factors like rapid urbanization, smart city, electric vehicles, construction licenses issued, tourism activity, etc.

It says that, state will face upcoming load of 30 MVA from the Mopa airport, 15 MVA from electronic city (Chimbel and Tuem), Konkan Railway, new consumers, among others. Further, about 8,000 applications for new connections are pending.

The document points out that, the state does not generate power and purchases long-term power from NTPC power stations (as allocated by the central government.) Further short term power is also purchased from the open market to meet the peak load deficit with a purchase rate as high as Rs 11 per unit paid during certain peak hours. The anticipated gap between power allocation and projected peak load is pegged at 100 MW over the period 2019-2022.

To reduce the burden on the exchequer, the electricity department proposes to increase high tension tariffs five times and limit the number of HT consumers. “Industry will have to arrange for power through solar or other non-fossil fuels,” says the electricity department in its business plan document.

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