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Tamil Nadu solar bid faces legal heat

According to reports, Tamil Nadu’s recent bid to build 1 gigawatts of solar capacity, through the single-biggest tender in India till date, is facing a legal challenge from the Indian arm of the non-profit global solar advisory International Solar Energy Society.

The arm, Solar Energy Society of India (Sesi), having 2,500 members made up of manufacturers, consultants, academics and government officials, has in a writ petition filed with the Madras High Court sought the quashing of the tender because guidelines for competitive bidding aren’t in place.

Instead, it wants the Tamil Nadu utility to procure solar power through MoUs “at a preferential tariff to be determined by the State Electricity Regulatory Commission.”

Separately, the state tender is also facing the heat from another industry body. The Solar Independent Power Producers Association, made up of prominent players in this space including Welspun, Sun Edison, Green Infra and the Adanis, have complained to the Tamil Nadu Electricity Regulatory Commission that the bid process is devoid of any merits. That’s because, it doesn’t have the approval of the State regulator itself.

The tender floated by Tamil Nadu Generation and Distribution Corporation (Tangedco) received a lukewarm response from an industry that’s used to oversubscribing to solar bids. When it closed on January 4, it founder bidders only about 500 megawatts of projects, half of what was sought.

Tamil Nadu, facing a severe power crisis, which sometimes is upwards of 4 gigawatts, has charted an ambitious solar policy. But the pace at which it’s is rushing to put capacities is giving the industry the jitters, which fears investments could be risky.

In fact, prior to the opening of the tender, the non-profit Sesi had written to the CMD of Tangedco on this issue. It had said, “in case Tangedco proceeds with the invitation for bid-cum-open tender dated December 5 in the present form, it will be illegal being contrary to the Electricity Act 2003 and the tariff determined thereby will not have any sanctity under the law.”

This, it had said, is in line with the guidelines issued by the Ministry of New and Renewable Energy.

A Tangedco official confirmed the receipt of the writ petition. It will now be filing a counter. An official at the State regulator said it is between Tangedco and the petitioner now, and the regulator had no role to play.

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