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Thursday, 25 April 2019 15:55

Managing the inevitable energy transition

This is last of the three articles on crucial challenges facing the Indian energy sector and some concrete ideas to address them. It is a short opinion piece highlighting the implications of the impending transition in energy sector, which is being driven by competitiveness of renewable energy sources coupled with reducing costs of battery storage and rising costs of conventional coal-based power. It argues that unless well managed, the transition will unfold chaotically, with the small, rural and agricultural consumers being the likely sufferers.

A version of this article appeared in the Hindu Business Line on 21st April, 2019.

The other articles in this series that appeared in the Hindu Business Line:
100% rural electrification is not enough
Managing India’s household energy challenge

Indian electricity sector has been in a state of flux from 1990s, when the reforms started with the entry of private power projects. The Enron power project and Odisha state reforms that followed have thrown up many controversial issues. The Electricity Act 2003, prepared with the reform spirit initiated another major policy upheaval in the sector. Today, Electricity Regulatory Commissions are operational in all the states. With all villages electrified and nearly all households connected to the grid, the demand now is for quality power supply. The whole country is connected to one national grid. Renewable energy is no more on the side-lines, and is expected to be a significant source of power. We are witnessing the entry of many new players, introduction of open access and a movement towards cost based tariff. The trend is towards an increasing role of private sector and markets under a regulatory regime. 

A public-spirited citizen, who wishes to respond to this flux and participate in the policy and regulatory processes, is faced with too many new issues. A basic understanding of the technical and economic aspects of the sector is necessary to gain a foothold. An insight into the policy, planning and regulatory processes, along with an appreciation of their linkages with the technical and economic issues, is essential to equip oneself for meaningful engagement with the sector.

This 3rd Revised Edition of the primer, giving a comprehensive macro perspective of the Indian electricity sector, is part of our attempts to assist such citizens in their efforts.

The electronic version of the Primer will be uploaded soon.

2017-18 witnessed impressive growth of renewable energy (RE) in the electricity sector wherein two major milestones were crossed. Annual RE capacity addition surpassed conventional capacity for the first time, with RE registering more than double the growth in conventional energy, in GW terms; and electricity sector investments in RE in 2017 were higher than that in conventional sources of energy for the first time according to IEA.

While direct electricity generation economics now consistently favour new renewable energy installations, the rapid increase in RE deployment is facing newer challenges. We seem to be entering a second phase of the energy transition, wherein wider system costs, planning and policy-regulatory environment is beginning to dictate the pace of RE deployment. These include the financial health of the DISCOMs, their existing surplus generation capacity, lack of adequate transmission infrastructure, uncertainty over duties/taxes etc. As a consequence, capacity installation in the present financial year (2018-19) may fall well short of the central targets for both wind and solar power. This report covers major policy and regulatory developments in the sector over the past year, while underscoring this transition pain. The graphs in the report are from Prayas’ Renewable Energy Data Portal, which is updated on a monthly basis and can be referred to for more details. This report is an update to two earlier reports looking at India's journey towards 175 GW renewables, published by Prayas (Energy Group) in October, 2016 and July, 2017.

Published in Renewable Energy
Friday, 28 December 2018 17:43

Powering agriculture via solar feeders

This article discusses a novel ‘Solar Feeder’ approach being implemented in Maharashtra state to solarize agricultural electricity consumption. In coming few years, over 7.5 lac agricultural pumps will be covered under this program. Access to groundwater for agriculture depends on reliable and affordable electricity supply. This is an important issue as it concerns livelihoods of the rural poor and food security of the country. The availability of the electricity grid in every village coupled with the national feeder separation programme makes the solar feeder approach a cost-effective and rapidly scalable proposition which is imminently feasible across the nation. The urgent need for providing agriculture with reliable and affordable daytime electricity makes it imperative for the sector to adopt such an approach. This policy framework, a win-win-win situation for the farmers, government and discoms, offers a much needed farmer-centric yet fiscally prudent pathway for the power sector. A version of this article appeared in The Hindu BusinessLine on the 20th of December 2018.

Published in Renewable Energy
An article which takes stock of the recent and ongoing developments in the Indian renewable energy sector. It notes the increasing importance of wind and solar energy for the Indian electricity sector.
A version of this article appeared in the magazine, China-India Dialogue, Volume 14, July-Aug 2018 and the magazine is available here -
Published in Renewable Energy

Prayas (Energy Group) organised a structured dialogue on “Renewable Purchase Obligations and Renewable Energy Certificates” on 10th June, 2013 at India Habitat Centre, New Delhi. The objective of the meeting was to increase our collecting understanding of the challenges and issues involved and seek ways to overcome them in a coordinated manner and ensure effective implementation of renewable energy policies/regulations, with particular focus on Renewable Purchase Obligations (RPOs) and Renewable Energy Certificates (RECs). While most states have RPO and REC regulations in place, questions have been raised off late over the actual functioning of these two instruments in practice. Against this background and to deliberate on the policy-regulatory measures/changes for an effective RPO/REC implementation, Prayas had organized this event. Mr Ashwin Gambhir, Senior Research Associate, made the background presentation, titled, ‘RPO-REC Framework: Emerging Challenges and way forward’. After the formal presentation, the panel members made opening remarks which were followed by an extensive discussion among all participants. The closing remarks were made by Shri Anil Jain, Advisor, Energy, Planning Commission. This meeting was attended over 50 senior participants from the MNRE, State Electricity Regulatory Commissions (ERCs), Renewable Energy Industry, State Nodal Agencies (SNAs), Utilities, Academia, Consultants and Media.  Shri Anil Jain, Advisor (Energy), Planning Commission, chaired the session. 


The presentation made during the roundtable discussion can be downloaded from this link below.

Published in Renewable Energy
Wednesday, 25 August 2010 14:59

Energy policy needs a relook

This article argues for a concerted effort to maximise the use of energy efficiency and renewable energy in the power sector, which is critical to ensure affordable and universal access to electricity in the country.

Published in Renewable Energy

In spite of the growth in short term open access (OA), the existing OA framework has not been implemented in the same spirit as envisaged in the Act and is thus is yet to realize its full potential, mainly on account of the resistance from DISCOMs. Given the rapidly falling price of wind and solar power, renewable energy (RE) based OA and captive options are likely to pick up in a big way in the coming years. More importantly, considering the unique characteristics of RE generation like intermittency, seasonality etc. coupled with concessional OA charges in some states and provisions like energy banking will bring newer challenges for the OA framework. This report begins with trying to establish the status of renewable energy based OA in few RE-rich states. One of the critical findings from this exercise is that availability of OA data is extremely poor, is spread across multiple sources and thus is a strong hindrance to critical and objective analysis of various policy-regulatory challenges like – roadmap for removal of concessions for renewable energy, impact of banking on DISCOMs etc. There is a dire need for greater public availability of comprehensive data related to OA in general and RE-OA in particular. Falling power prices are quickly rendering most concessions and waivers unnecessary for renewable energy. Hence the report recommends a gradual withdrawal of such concessions to encourage the growth of RE based OA on its own fundamental economic proposition. Finally, given the inherent seasonal and diurnal variation in RE generation, RE based OA is presently quite unviable without some form of banking framework. The report critically analyses a new energy banking framework which appropriately values banked and unbanked energy in monetary terms. Such a banking framework coupled with the forecasting, scheduling and deviation settlement mechanism regulations will address renewable energy’s seasonal and day-ahead variation respectively to a large extent. In effect these two frameworks would largely internalize the cost of RE grid integration, thereby paving the way for further RE capacity addition.

Published in Renewable Energy

Record lows in price discovery for wind power (Rs. 3.46/kWh) and solar PV (Rs. 2.44/kWh) coupled with the highest ever yearly capacity addition of ~11.3 GW of renewables in 2016-17 have compelled even the most ardent sceptics to sit up and take note of renewable energy. Direct generation prices (in simple per kWh terms) no longer seem to be a hurdle to achieve the 175 GW national renewable energy target. While India has been ranked as one of the top two countries for investments in renewable energy according to a prominent country attractiveness index, several new challenges have emerged.

This report highlights the major sectoral developments in terms of deployment, prices, new policies and regulations since last year. It also analyses the major challenges and raises important questions on the future path for various policy-regulatory instruments for renewable energy as its share is set to rapidly increase. This report is an update to the first report looking at India's journey towards 175 GW renewables, published by Prayas (Energy Group) in October, 2016.

Published in Renewable Energy

The Government of India has announced a target of 175 GW (100 GW of solar, 60 GW of wind) of renewable power in the country by 2022. Considering this target, the penetration of renewables may reach as high as 33% in terms of capacity and 21% in terms of generation. Operating the grid efficiently, economically and securely with high penetration of intermittent wind and solar generation, especially with concentrated deployment in few states can be additionally challenging.
One of the important steps that the regulatory set-up has been working on is the introduction of forecasting, scheduling and deviation settlement mechanisms for wind and solar generators. While this is an important first step, as the share of RE increases it will crucial to understand its implications on various sectoral stakeholders.

In this context, Prayas (Energy Group) organised a roundtable discussion to deliberate on the various specific challenges around forecasting, scheduling and deviation settlement regulations for renewables and broader RE grid integration aspects. The discussion was carried out under Chathan House rules to enable frank and open discussions. The objective was to understand the different perspectives of various stakeholders (ERCs, Generators, DISCOMs, LDCs, etc.). Our hope was that these deliberations would constructively inform policy and regulatory officials as they work on the important task of framing rules around renewable energy grid integration. The roundtable was attended by 36 people representing a strong diversity of stakeholders including SERCs, DISCOMs, SLDCs, Wind/Solar developers, Consulting, Thermal Generators, Transmission Utilities, Academia, Power Exchanges, Consumer representatives and Forecasting and Scheduling service providers.

Published in Renewable Energy
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