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Call for reforms to boost solar power sector

According to reports, stake holders, experts and state level policy makers are seeking reforms must to facilitate growth of solar energy sector up to its potential. At a time when India’s total installed capacity in solar power generation is just about 1800 mw against the Jawaharlal Nehru National Solar Mission’s (JNNSM) target of 20,000 mw to be achieved by 2022, Gujarat Energy Research and Management Institute (GERMI) and Centre for Science and Environment (CSE) organised one-day conference on ‘the future of solar energy in India’ at Pandit Deendayal Petroleum University, Gandhinagar.

The participants deliberated issues related to the solar energy sector and came out with suggestions aimed at developing a policy roadmap for the sustainable growth of the sector.

Speaking on how Gujarat intends to implement the second phase of developing solar energy sector, Gujarat government’s principal secretary for energy department DJ Pandian said, “Gujarat will now mainly concentrate on roof-top solar power, since it offers enormous potential. If we cover only 20% of the houses, which works out to be about 20 lakh, we can install solar generation capacity of about 2,000 MW, which is a big thing. So we plant to install about 60 MW capacity in next three years through this route. Tenders for 5 MW roof-top solar power generation in each of the five cities namely Rajkot, Mehsana, Bhavnagar, Vadodara and Surat are ready and waiting approval from GERC.” He added that Sardar Sarovar Narmada Nigam is in process of setting up a 10 MW solar power plant on top of canal network near Vadodara.

Chandra Bhushan, deputy director general of CSE highlighted the challenges and issues being faced while connecting the solar power plants with the grid. Among others, participants discussed second phase of JNNSM, scaling up renewable energy mini-grids for rural electrification, financing for solar power projects, reforms required in the financial assistance for solar in India, innovation and global deal, auxiliary industries and their impact on solar industry, power storage technologies and human resource development in solar energy.

Addressing the conference, German government-owned development bank KfW’s energy specialist Arjun Guha said, “State solar policies have granted installation of projects with capacity of more than 1000 mw. The efficiency and the generation capability of these plants can only be judged in years to come. Most of the states used the reverse bidding to grant projects to various developers and helped reducing the tariff quoted. In September 2013, Karnataka received the lowest tariff of Rs. 5.51 per unit. But there is an argument that says that feed-in tariffs extends government support over the entire life-cycle of the project.”

GERMI’s principal research scientist Omkar Jani said, “While many state-level incentives have sprouted, a central balancing mechanism needs to be in place to ensure the sustenance of such state-wide models to ensure no unfair burden on any state due to the high cost of solar energy.” He added: “Solar projects should be granted ‘priority lending’ status for banks to allocate funds specifically to solar plants. In addition to this, takeout finance should be established like in the case of infrastructure projects that addresses issues that might arise for the long-term debt financing to core projects.”

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