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India to add 2700 MW of solar PV capacity in 2015.

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As part of the 60 GW target for utility scale solar, the central government is taking the lead at present through projects developed under National Solar Mission.  But states are expected to play a bigger role over time and develop 20 GW of capacity (refer). In percentage terms, this seems very reasonable given that state policy projects already account for around 60% of the installed solar capacity and 65% of total project pipeline of 10.8 GW in India. However, state policy projects generally tend to suffer significant delays and policy uncertainty.

  • Policy flip-flops at the state allocation level, including recent one in Madhya Pradesh, have hurt investor confidence
  • If central government allocations are exhausted early, as planned, will states be able to sustain demand?
  • India needs to ensure that enough thought and center-state co-ordination goes into plan for state-level allocations

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The poor financial health of India’s power distribution companies (DISCOMs) is deemed to be the weakest link in the Indian power sector and a huge headache for project developers.  It is not just critical for the revival of the power sector but also for the health of public sector banks. Recent estimates by CRISIL suggest that poor progress on tariff reforms and high AT&C losses have cost led to accumulated DISCOM losses of INR 3.75 trillion (USD 56 billion). To put this in perspective: this is equivalent to around 2.7% of India’s GDP.

  • Central government wants states to issue bonds for raising funds at 8.5-9% to refinance power firms’ current high-cost loans (13-14%)
  • In return for reforms, central government will offer funds from schemes such as the Integrated Power Development System and Deen Dayal Upadhyaya Gram Jyoti Yojana
  • The long term growth prospects of the solar sector are contingent upon the financial health of the DISCOMs

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The Indian Parliament recently concluded a literally washed out monsoon session. The key Amendments for Electricity Act 2003, which the Parliamentary Standing Committee had already recommended was ready but not tabled (refer here to read why this matters for the solar sector). Another important proposal to amend the National Tariff Policy 2005 has been severely watered down (refer here to read about its proposed impact on the solar sector).

  • Amendments to the Electricity Act are ready but could not be introduced in the parliament.
  • Dropping of the compulsory adherence clause in the amendment to the National Tariff Policy will undermine the impact of the reform.
  • Written replies to questions raised by parliamentarians revealed several aspects of various government initiatives.

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India has been discussing dollar dominated bids for solar projects in the country for some time now. The rationale is to attract low cost international capital and reduce hedging costs by pooling currency risk with the ultimate objective of reducing the cost of solar power. An initial allocation for 1 GW of projects is believed to be in planning stages and guidelines on bidding process are expected within the next couple of months.

  • The government hopes to lower the cost of solar power by around 10%
  • BRIDGE TO INDIA analysis shows that cost reduction may be slightly less at about 5% but these projects may attract new capital to the sector
  • It is worth going through the added complexity of Dollar dominated bids only if the government is confident of using this mechanism for much larger capacity, say 10 GW or more

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