Rajasthan has emerged as a premier investment destination in India. While it offers significant opportunities in all areas of infrastructure development, one sector in which it has outshone its peers is renewable energy. After dislodging Gujarat in solar power generation, Rajasthan has surpassed it in wind power as well. Today, it has the second highest installed solar power capacity in the country and the third highest wind capacity. In an interview with Renewable Watch, B.K. Dosi, managing director, Rajasthan Renewable Energy Corporation Limited, talks about the state’s renewable energy policy framework, the targets for the sector and the steps being taken to promote development. Excerpts…
What have been the key achievements in the state’s renewable energy sector in the past one year?
Rajasthan is a leading state in terms of development and promotion of renewable energy. During 2015-16, the state added 362 MW of solar capacity and 685 MW of wind capacity.
What is the current installed renewable energy capacity in the state?
Currently, the state has a total installed renewable energy capacity of 5,556.59 MW. Of this, 1,301.1 MW is solar based, 4,136.24 MW is wind based and 119.25 MW is biomass based.
What initiatives is the state likely to take next year for developing the sector?
In order to tap the solar potential, the state government has been promoting the development of solar parks through joint venture (JVs) companies. Three JV companies have already been formed and five solar parks with a total capacity of 4,430 MW have been approved under the first phase of the Ministry of New and Renewable Energy’s scheme for the development of solar parks and ultra mega solar power projects. The Rajasthan government has already granted approval for the purchase of power from a 750 MW of solar capacity through the Solar Energy Corporation of India’s (SECI) viability gap funding scheme under the Jawaharlal Nehru National Solar Mission Phase II Batch III. The proposal to set up more parks is also under the consideration of the state government.
How has the experience of the state as well as developers been in setting up solar parks? How much capacity is expected to come through these parks?
In Rajasthan, solar parks are being set up solely by government agencies and by public-private JVs. A solar park with a capacity of 680 MW is being developed by Rajasthan Renewable Energy Corporation Limited (RRECL) in Bhadala Phase II and will be fully operational by December 2016. All plants in the park are likely to be commissioned by March 2017. Further, there are four solar parks coming up in the public-private partnership mode and one in the public sector. The four solar parks in JV with private companies are a 1,000 MW solar park by IL&FS in Bhadla, a 500 MW park and a 1,500 MW park by Adani Power in Bhadla and Fatehgarh respectively, and the 750 MW Phalodi-Pokharan solar park by the Essel Group. The state government has allotted about 3,700 hectares of land for the development of two parks through these JV companies. In addition, RRECL has set up five projects of 60 MW capacity in the Bhadla Solar Park under Phase I.
State government agencies and developers find it convenient to set up solar power projects in solar parks, as the formalities for approvals/clearances for solar projects have reduced and major issues such as land acquisition and right of way have been eliminated for solar parks.
How has the response in the rooftop solar market been? What are the key challenges faced by the sector in Rajasthan?
The setting up of rooftop solar projects in the state started with the issuance of the net metering regulations in February 2015. During the past one year, with the efforts of RRECL and SECI, and through private initiatives, projects of around 10 MW capacity have been installed in the state under the rooftop scheme. RRECL has now issued another rate contract for 25 MW of rooftop projects.
Despite the subsidies and incentives given by the central government, many challenges still exist. These are as follows:
- High upfront capital costs, especially for small residential consumers.
- Lack of awareness among consumers.
- Need for rapid and smooth implementation of net metering regulations.
- Lack of appropriate training to discom ground staff.
What is the wind power outlook for the state? What are the key concerns of developers and how is the state planning to address them?
Rajasthan has an installed wind capacity of 4,136 MW. The state government believes in sustainable development and is committed to promoting green energy. Our endeavour is to have the right energy mix with an appropriate share of green energy, which is affordable for discoms and can be absorbed by the transmission network. Therefore, we plan to promote wind power under the renewable energy certificate mechanism as well as to meet the renewable purchase obligation (RPO) of discoms.
What are the key issues and challenges facing renewable energy development in the state?
Rajasthan has the highest radiation levels and a very conducive Solar Power Policy, 2014, which attracts developers to set up solar power projects in the state. In order to tap the solar potential, the state government has set a target of 25 GW. During the bidding process for the Bhadla solar park Phase II in western Rajasthan, the minimum tariff received was Rs 4.34 per kWh. This clearly shows that Rajasthan is the preferred investment destination for solar power players.
However, despite all the benefits, the state cannot absorb the entire generated solar power and, therefore, the surplus needs to be evacuated out of the state through open access. The non-availability of the central transmission utility network system is the key challenge for setting up solar projects for the sale of power through open access.
What is the update on the Green Energy Corridors project in the state under both the interand the intra-state part of the programme?
Power Grid Corporation of India Limited is setting up the ISTS grid substation (GSS) at Chittorgarh, Ajmer and Bikaner under the Green Energy Corridors project. The construction of these GSSs is in progress, while the 765/400 kV GSS has been approved under the next phase of the project. Meanwhile, land for the GSS at Bhadla has already been allotted and is likely to be commissioned by March 2018. Rajasthan Rajya Vidyut Prasaran Nigam Limited is augmenting the intra-state transmission system. It has recently approved a new transmission project worth more than Rs 30 billion for the evacuation of solar and wind power in western Rajasthan.
What are the state’s long-term plans for the sector? What are the segment-wise targets for the next three years?
Rajasthan aims to set up solar power projects for third-party sale through open access to achieve the 25 GW solar target. To this end, the state government has already reduced the transmission charges to 50 per cent for solar power projects to be commissioned by March 2018 or those having a capacity of 2,000 MW whichever is earlier. The state government has also been promoting rooftop solar projects through the net metering scheme.
B.K. Dosi is Managing Director, Rajasthan Renewable Energy Corporation Limited.