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Maharashtra looks at huge renewable power capacity by 2020

According to reports, in a huge push for renewable power, Maharashtra will have an installed capacity of around 22,000 MW in the non-conventional energy sector by 2020. This includes 14,400 MW proposed in the new renewable energy policy to be placed before the state cabinet next week for approval, and the existing 6,155 MW capacity in the sector.

However, to reduce the tariff impact on consumers due to the higher costs of this green energy compared to conventional coal-based thermal power plants, the state government is looking at encouraging industries to develop around 8,500 MW of captive solar and wind energy projects for their own use.

These projects will be undertaken for industries to meet their power needs and as a substitute for costlier power which they have to draw from the state grid.

“We are looking at promoting hybrid (a mix of two or more technologies like wind and solar) renewable energy projects,” state energy minister Chandrashekhar Bavankule told dna.

Bavankule said they had decided to scrap the state power generation utility’s — Maharashtra State Power Generation Company Limited (MahaGenco) — proposed coal-based projects which were not viable due to higher costs of transporting coal, which would hike power rates. Instead, this land at Dondaicha, Paras and Bhusawal would be used to establish solar energy projects.

Of the 14,400 MW grid-connected target in the new renewable energy policy, the bulk 7,500 MW is expected to come in from the solar sector, and wind energy and baggase-based cogeneration will contribute 5,000 MW and 1,000 MW respectively. Small hydro power projects, with a capacity of 5 MW and less, will make up for 400 MW and 300 MW is proposed to be generated from industrial waste and 200 MW from biomass.

The wind and solar targets include 5,000 MW captive generation in solar and 3,500 MW in wind. These projects are expected to be completed in five years and this will be a manifold increase from the 2,500 MW renewable energy target in the previous policy, which was approved in 2008.

Bavankule added that though renewable energy was cleaner and had fewer variable costs, the tariffs (around Rs5.71 per unit) were higher compared to coal-based plants (Rs3.25 per unit in the open market to Rs4.25 per unit generated by MahaGenco).

“To prevent the cost impact on consumers, we are promoting captive solar and wind energy projects by industries to meet their needs… and are trying to bring down costs to Rs4.50 from Rs5.71 per unit. Since we have our own land, the costs will fall,” said Bavankule, adding that as technologies evolved, costs of green energy would be at par with coal-based plants.

These captive plants will help industries get power at cheaper rates and can be developed by them anywhere in Maharashtra with the power being evacuated using open access. Industries will be able to take fallow and non-cultivated land from farmers on lease to set up these plants, instead of buying it outright, which will also reduce costs.

The lower costs of this power as against that purchased from distribution utilities will make industry competitive and help the state’s ‘Make in Maharashtra’ ambitions to promote the manufacturing sector, noted Bavankule.
The Centre plans to develop 175 gigawatts (GW) of renewable energy capacity by 2022, of which 100 GW will be solar energy. One GW is equal to 1,000 MW.

The Maharashtra government has been announcing policies from 1996 onwards to promote generation of power through clean and non-conventional energy sources. The Maharashtra Energy Development Agency (MEDA) promotes the development of non-conventional energy resources.

The power generated under this proposed policy can be sold by developers through competitive bidding but they will have to first sell this to any distribution companies in the state to meet their renewable purchase obligation (RPO), which is a target in terms of a certain percentage of power to be sourced from green sources.

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