India’s solar sector booming as project pipeline touches 15 GW

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The Ministry of Power’s Ujwal DISCOM Assurance Yojana (UDAY), a financial and operational reform scheme for distribution companies (DISCOMs), announced in November 2015 (refer) is bearing surprisingly quick and positive results. The scheme aims to address debilitating financial health of most state power distribution companies (DISCOMs) leading to offtake concerns for private power generators and stress in the overall banking sector. So far, 18 states including some of the most distressed states – Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Rajasthan, Haryana, Punjab and Jammu & Kashmir – have signed up for the scheme with Tamil Nadu also expected to sign up shortly. According to the Ministry of Power, UDAY has already addressed 62% of the Discom debt existing at the end of 2014-15  (refer).

  • Almost 80% of entire DISCOM debt would be removed from their balance sheets by the end of next year reducing their overall financial losses by more than 50%;
  • Improvement of DISCOM financials will have a hugely positive and long-lasting impact on the solar sector by way of improving availability of private capital and growing demand for power by DISCOMs;
  • By successful implementation of UDAY alongside development of government solar parks, the Indian government has addressed two of the most critical challenges facing the renewable sector;


India has added 513 MW of rooftop solar capacity over the past 12 months reaching total installed capacity of 1,020 MW. 22% of capacity addition in the last year has been built under OPEX model where a third party project developer finances and installs the system on rooftop owner/consumer’s premises and sells all power output to him under a long-term agreement. This model is extremely popular in the USA where almost half of the rooftop solar installations are owned by specialist OPEX developers such as SolarCity, Vivint, Sunrun etc.

  • The OPEX model has been very successful internationally and remains so for Indian consumers who don’t want to incur upfront capital costs but still want to benefit from falling costs of solar power;
  • Poor contract enforceability in India poses a significant risk to the growth of OPEX market;
  • Given the many fundamental benefits of the OPEX model and its attraction for both the consumers and project developers, policy makers need to urgently focus on addressing this risk for long-term growth of the rooftop market in India;


Madhya Pradesh government has come out with a new decentralised renewable energy policy focusing primarily on rooftop solar systems. The policy’s target to install 2.2 GW of rooftop solar capacity by 2022, is consistent with the Government of India’s national rooftop plan of 40 GW by 2022. MP is ­­one of the first few states including Himachal Pradesh and Maharashtra to revise its decentralised renewable energy policy to align with national policy.

  • The policy provides flexibility to consumers willing to set up a project for complete captive consumption, on net metered basis or on gross metered basis with attractive open access incentives
  • The policy is applicable for projects up to a capacity of 2 MW
  • The policy also recognises and extends benefits to rooftop solar installations by Renewable Energy Service Companies (RESCOs)


News reports suggest that Neyveli Lignite Corporation (NLC), a 90% Government of India owned company, has abandoned its plan to set up 2 x 65 MW solar projects in Rajasthan after failing to agree to sell power to local distribution companies at the required price (refer). This is a disappointing development as these projects were in very advanced stages with land already identified and EPC work awarded to Bharat Heavy Electronics Limited (BHEL) and Jakson group after a competitive bidding process.

  • Private sector developers are able to out-compete their public sector counterparts due to better financial engineering capability, more efficient operations and higher risk taking ability;
  • Power distribution companies want cheaper power and see no benefit in buying more expensive power from public sector developers;
  • Private sector is likely to continue to dominate solar project development landscape in India


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