Choosing Green: the status and challenges of renewable energy based open access

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Author(s): Jatin Sarode, Ashwin Gambhir, Nikita Das, Shantanu Dixit Publication Date: November, 2017

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.

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The energy sector, and in particular, fossil fuels are a significant contributor to the overall revenue of India’s central and state governments. For example, the GST Compensation Cess, which started in 2010-11 with a cess of ₹50/ton on all coal has kept increasing over the years and now stands at ₹400/ton. Further, governments have traditionally depended heavily on taxes from petrol and diesel, and recent increases in excise and VAT further demonstrate this. Roughly 60-70% of the final prices of diesel and petrol respectively are made up of taxes. The total contribution to public tax revenue from taxes on coal, petroleum & natural gas, and electricity sectors amounted to about ₹6 lakh crores out of a total revenue of about ₹34 lakh crores in 2018-19. The taxes on energy sectors contributed 25% of the total tax revenue of the Centre, and 13% of the total tax revenue to the states. Since many energy sources are outside GST, these taxes cannot be offset. Moreover, since the bulk of the tax revenues from the energy sector accrue from fossil fuels, the inevitable energy transition away from fossil fuels towards renewables and electric mobility will have a significant impact on public tax revenues.

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