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West Bengal stares at 200-cr loss in solar energy

According to reports, West Bengal has already lost Rs 200-crore investment in solar energy sector since the cost for solar energy units here is higher than states like Maharashtra, Gujarat and Rajasthan, where solar radiation is much higher. The state is all set to lose another Rs 200 crore this year due to uniform tariff rates across the country.

The National Solar Mission was announced two years ago, with the target to generate 20,000 MW solar power by the end of the 13th Plan. The Central Electricity regularity Commission declared a tariff of Rs 17.91 KWH for the entire country for 2010-11.

The forum of renewable energy industries had sent a letter to the Centre urging for a separate tariff rate for the eastern region. The Indo-German Chamber of Commerce also submitted a letter to Mamata Banerjee to look into the matter.

The issue was raised to the ministry of new and renewable energy (MNRE) on behalf of the eastern region last year during the tender of 150 MW of solar power plants. MNRE did not address the demand. As a result, Bengal lost out in the bidding to state like Andhra Pradesh, Gujarat and Maharashtra.

Now, the Centre has already floated tenders for the second phase of bidding for 350 MW. The expression of interests will be called on September 27 and the bidding will take place on November 12. However, with no change in policy for eastern states, which get lower solar radiation, West Bengal is all set to bite the dust this year too.

“Already, two companies who were allotted land in West Bengal have left the state. Aston Field had been allotted land for setting up 5-MW power plant at Bankura and Videocon at Purulia for a 10-MW plant. Both the companies have left. Ironically, the state was the pioneer in installing the country’s first solar power plant in 2009.

This year, a Germany-based company is ready to invest Rs 200 crore for a 15-MW power plant in Burdwan, but it wants a higher tariff rate. The Indo-German Chamber of Commerce has already submitted a letter to Mamata and power minister Manish Gupta to look into this issue.

Forum members said about 350-MW solar power plants should be allocated regionwise. With the eastern region having about 20% of the population of the country, at least 70 MW should be allocated to this region and also the tariff of solar power should be at least 7% more for this region.

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