Kerala has been making slow but steady progress in the renewable energy space. Currently, renewable energy makes up only 7.6 per cent of the total installed power generation capacity. As of September 2019, the total installed renewable energy capacity in the state stood at 433.63 MW, with the largest contribution by solar power at 146.84 MW. Kerala generated about 447.76 MUs of electricity through renewable sources during the period April-August 2020, as against 303.13 MUs during the same period in 2019. While the overall power generation has increased, there has been a sharp rise in renewables generation. Kerala has been expanding its solar capacity over the past few years. Since the availability of large areas of land is a challenge, developers are focusing on rooftop solar and floating solar to optimise space.
For the year 2019-20, the renewable purchase obligation (RPO) for entities in the state was 8 per cent for non-solar and 4 per cent for solar. For the year 2020-21, the non-solar RPO requirement is 9 per cent and the solar RPO is 5.25 per cent, a total of 14.25 per cent. Further, for 2021-22, the RPO requirement of non-solar has been increased to 10.25 per cent and solar to 6.75 per cent, making a total of 17 per cent. As per the estimated electricity demand and RPO targets, the Kerala state distribution companies must procure 925 MW of power from non-solar renewable energy sources by 2021-22. In order to meet these RPOs, the state is scaling up its renewable capacity. Two of the key renewable energy agencies in the state are Kerala State Electricity Board Limited (KSEB) and the Agency for Non-conventional Energy and Rural Technology (ANERT).
Rooftop solar projects contribute to about 32 per cent of the solar power capacity in Kerala, higher than most states in India. Kerala held the 13th rank as per the State Rooftop Solar Attractiveness Index (SARAL) with an A grade for financial year 2018-19. While the SARAL rooftop index does not rank Kerala very high on its rooftop solar attractiveness index, Kerala has made some headway in the space.
On the policy and regulatory front, the Kerala State Electricity Regulatory Commission (KSERC) issued the KERC (Renewable Energy and Net Metering) Regulations, 2020, in February 2020. Under the regulations, the discoms have been directed to provide net metering arrangements to prosumers on a non-discriminatory and first come, first served basis within 10 days from the date of submission of approval for the renewable energy project. Further, the discoms have been directed to constitute an in-house renewable energy cell to promote renewable energy deployment in the state.
Kerala also has an ongoing programme, Soura. The objective of the programme is to add 1,000 MW of solar projects to the existing capacity of KSEBL by 2022. The projects will be implemented under the Urja State Kerala Mission and will be executed to fulfil the state’s RPO targets. The Soura programme aims to install 500 MW of rooftop solar, 200 MW of ground-mounted solar, 100 MW of floating solar, 150 MW of solar park, and 50 MW of canal-top solar capacity by 2022.
The 500 MW of rooftop projects will be implemented in phases. Under the first phase, 200 MW of rooftop solar capacity was tendered in August 2019. Of this, nearly 150 MW of projects are being developed under the renewable energy service company (RESCO) model, and 50 MW will be developed on a turnkey basis. According to KSEB, the total investment required for the 50 MW of capacity being developed on a turnkey basis is Rs 2.5 billion. In March 2020, KSERC approved KSEB’s proposal for implementing 50 MW of grid-connected rooftop solar projects under Phase II of the MNRE’s rooftop solar programme. These projects will be set up with the help of central financial assistance.
Floating solar projects are also becoming popular in the state. In September 2019, Tata Power Solar won a 70 MW tender for a floating solar project on a reservoir of NTPC Limited’s Rajiv Gandhi Combined Cycle Power Project (RGCCPP) at Kayamkulam in Kerala. The project costs being quoted by developers are as low as Rs 35 per watt, the lowest so far. Further, in May 2020, Bharat Heavy Electricals Limited invited bids for another 22 MW of floating solar grid-connected capacity for NTPC Limited at the RGCCPP. Earlier, in March 2020, KSEB had given in-principle approval to install 50 MW of floating solar power projects in Kollam district under the MNRE’s Ultra Mega Renewable Energy Power Parks Programme.
Renewables in transport
In 2015, Cochin International Airport Limited (CIAL) became the first solar-powered airport in the world, with the commissioning of a 12 MW solar power plant on its premises. Its installed capacity has now expanded to 40 MW, with another 12 MW in the development stage. The tender for the projects in the development stage, to be set up at Etukudukka and Payyanur in Kannur district, was issued in November 2019 by CIAL Infrastructures Limited, a subsidiary of CIAL. There is also a 450 kW floating solar project installed at the CIAL golf course at Cochin airport.
Besides air transport, metro rail systems in the state are looking towards solar power. Kochi Metro Rail Limited (KMRL) plans to add 5.4 MWp of solar capacity on its buildings and tracks in 2020 to attain 60 per cent energy neutrality. The installation of rooftop solar panels will be completed by mid-November 2020 and on-track panels will be completed by December 2020. These capacity additions will be over and above the existing capacity of 4 MW, which includes 2.7 MW of solar capacity implemented under the RESCO model on Muttom yard. Apart from this, KMRL has completed the installation of solar panels at the Thykoodam metro station. Work is also progressing at five other metro stations – Vyttila, Petta, South, Kadavanthra and Elamkulam.
The Cochin Port Trust (CPT) has been active in the uptake of renewable energy to meet its requirements. In May 2020, CPT invited bids for setting up 1.5 MW of grid-connected floating solar power projects at the port’s walkway avenue between the BOT junction and the Kannangatt bridge. These include two projects of 0.75 MW each. In December 2019, CPT also floated a tender for the development of a 350 kW grid-connected rooftop solar PV project on its premises. In November 2019, it invited bids for both rooftop and floating solar power projects. Initially, around 14 blocks of a residential building with flat roofs will be made available for the projects in Kochi along with about 4 km of surrounding waterbodies.
Wind and off-grid segments
As per a detailed study by ANERT, in association with the MNRE, Kerala has an estimated wind power potential of 605 MW. However, only about 62.5 MW of wind power capacity has been installed in the state. Although the progress is slow, there have been a few developments in the wind energy space in the state. In February 2020, KSEB agreed to offtake 72 MW of wind power projects in Palakkad district being developed by NHPC Limited. In the same month, KERC cleared a power sale agreement and approved a tariff of Rs 2.83 per kWh to procure 200 MW of wind power.
Kerala also has a significant number of off-grid projects. In November 2019, ANERT issued a tender for 10 MW of off-grid solar power projects at public institutions across 14 districts in Kerala. The projects are to be installed in varying capacities of 2 kW, 3 kW, 5 kW and 10 kW along with battery banks. ANERT has also recently invited bids for the empanelment of agencies for the supply and installation of solar systems below 1 kW in Kerala. Meanwhile, the State Water Transport Department of Kerala has issued a tender for the construction and supply of three solar boats. The vessels will have a capacity to carry 75 passengers.
Keeping the land constraints in mind, Kerala is exploring new frontiers of renewable energy beyond mainstream sources. In June 2020, the state government and the MNRE announced plans to explore the potential of wave energy generation off the Vizhinjam coast in Kerala. A 150 kW pilot project will be set up in the form of a floating plant near the international container terminal station. The proposed floating device will be deployed at a depth of 40-50 metres. If the technology is successful, the state government plans to set up a 1 MW wave energy plant off the coast of Vizhinjam.
Given the increasing pipeline of renewable projects, the renewable energy outlook for the state seems promising. Owing to space constraints for setting up large-scale projects, the state is focusing on rooftop and floating solar projects. The falling project costs and technology developments are positive signs. However, there can be more initiatives and incentives on the part of the state government to ensure that there is a conducive environment to scale up the capacity further.