Despite challenges due to limited land availability for renewable energy development, the introduction of progressive policies and regulations in recent months has given Haryana a much-needed impetus. The introduction of the draft solar policy and solar parks policy and revision of regulations have provided fresh hope of new investments and projects in the state’s renewable energy sector, particularly solar energy. Environmental concerns regarding stubble burning in Haryana have put a greater thrust on setting up paddy straw biomass-based power projects in the state. In a recent interview with Renewable Watch, Dr Hanif Qureshi, Secretary, New and Renewable Energy Department, Haryana, shared his views on the key challenges in the sector, the state’s progress, expected policy changes and emerging opportunities…
How did your state’s renewable energy sector cope with the aftermath of Covid-19? What is being done to promote renewables’ growth in the state?
The Covid-19 pandemic posed serious challenges to the implementation of renewable energy projects and schemes. The materials used for pumps had to be transported from the manufacturers’ premises to various pump sites spread across Haryana. With Covid-19 protocols in place, the movement of materials and workforce proved to be extremely difficult. Several changes were made in the standard operating protocol of the firms that supplied the equipment and also of the Department. For instance, the pre-despatch inspection of lots was allowed from warehouses located in Haryana instead of manufacturers’ premises. For 2019-20 (implemented in 2020-21) under the PM KUSUM scheme, Haryana was given a target of 15,000 off-grid solar pumps of 3-10 HP capacity, all of which were installed. The Department has fixed a target of 22,000 off-grid pumps for the current financial year. The state government is also promoting e-mobility for reducing its dependence on fossil fuels and mitigating climate change. HAREDA is actively promoting several schemes to utilise the surplus biomass available in the state.
The pandemic has offered an opportunity for digitalisation and online transactions. HAREDA has adopted a complete online application mechanism with a payment gateway for its various schemes. Online awareness activities have increased manyfold. Social media is being tapped as a major outreach tool for targeted users. An IT cell has been set up in HAREDA for technical support to project teams for flawless implementation.
Another initiative of the state government to promote renewables in Haryana is to encourage the installation of solar power plants through the RESCO mode. So far, projects of 6.5 MW capacity have been installed in RESCO mode in the state and projects of about 2 MW are under installation. To ensure regular charging of domestic inverters without the use of grid power, the department is also implementing a scheme for solar inverter chargers that are used to charge the battery bank of an existing inverter.
The state government is also promoting compressed biogas plants in the state under the Sustainable Alternative Towards Affordable Transportation (SATAT) scheme of the Ministry of Petroleum and Natural Gas, Government of India, with the objective of reducing the dependence on imported gas and using disposable paddy straw. An MoU has been signed between Indian Oil Corporation Limited and HAREDA for setting up biomass-to-compressed biogas (CBG) plants in Haryana. Under the MoU with IOCL, 200 plants of 1,000 tonnes per day are targeted by 2023. They will consume a significant quantity of paddy straw.
What are the challenges that the renewable energy sector is facing in your state?
The renewable energy sector is witnessing supply chain issues even after the pandemic, due to which the execution timelines are affected as many components for solar projects are imported. The increase in GST on solar projects from 8.9 per cent to 13.8 per cent, with effect from October 1, 2021, is resulting in additional cost escalation and issues in beneficiary share collection of projects, for which work orders have already been placed. The cost of components of almost all renewable energy projects has increased by 15-20 per cent due to rise in the cost of iron, steel, copper, glass, petroleum products and labour.
What policy and regulatory changes can your state’s renewable energy sector expect in the coming months?
The existing regulatory requirements call for the installation of 3-5 per cent of the connected load of a building to be met from solar power plants. The department is considering revising these requirements upwards so that the share of renewable energy increases to 10-15 per cent. The bioenergy policy of 2018 is also proposed to be revised to promote the use of paddy straw in industries and the production of compressed biogas.
What is the outlook for emerging opportunities like floating solar and storage in your state?
Although the immediate focus in the state is on the effective utilisation of existing biomass and biogas resources while promoting e-mobility and solar power, new and emerging opportunities in energy storage and floating solar can be explored in the coming years.