Economic Survey: Climate Change, Sustainable Development and Energy

Electricity is one the key sectors of the Indian economy and with the emergence of non-fossil power plants unsettling the traditional businesses it was high time to have a comprehensive take on the subject, the recent economic survey tries to do just that. A chapter aptly titled ‘Climate Change, Sustainable Development and Energy’  is a clear indication that the electricity sector today has wider impact on the people than portrayed by the phrase ‘Bijli, Sadak, Pani‘ (Electricity, Road, Water).

Climate Change

The chapter on economic survey clearly brings out the Govt.’s objective to stick to its commitment to the Paris Agreement (Read more on India’s climate commitment). The chief economist goes on to say India will stick to its stand irrespective of what happens with the US’s stance on climate change.

Sustainable Development

Its been over two years since UN released its objectives for Sustainable Development and the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (Know more about SDGs) and India has produced the first review of the goals. As expected the emphasis is on SDG 7, “Ensure access to affordable, reliable, sustainable and modern energy for all”. Incidentally, SDGs also have 2030 as the target year like the Paris Agreement.

Energy

The narrative of the chapter is quite clear right from the start, justify the need to transition to Renewable Energy (RE) alternatives by stressing the benefits of climate change and sustainable development. A detailed analysis on the costs of energy and net benefits have been studied and presented in the study. A few of the analysis have been spot on like the one on anticipated RE penetration by 2027, a 43% of the grid total and getting better of coal.

RECoal

Solar Power

The past year has been a clear indication that rapid deployment of solar power is possible with declining costs (highlighted below). (Solar bids: No more outliers)

Solar

The survey interestingly points out to the key factor that determines if a solar power development is really sustainable. I’m glad to be proved right, that the development costs of solar power is high considering land use is impacted especially if the plants are performing below their efficiencies (Read more: Is Solar Power Development Sustainable?) Survey points out the land requirement for solar is 10 times the requirement for coal plants, clearly a loss of opportunity cost.

Need explanation: Social costs

As a surprise, in what looks to be a clear approach to show the net benefits of RE switch is not significant as thought, the economic survey throws up an analysis that points social costs of Renewables is three times that of coal but reduces as we progress to 2030.

SocialCosts

Similarly an explanation is needed to justify the lack of accounting of actual costs of stranded assets in thermal power plants while the same has been well accounted for renewables. If there is a valid justification, calculations have to be made public for debate.

SocialCosts1

Subsidies

It is understandable that subsidies for RE have been high in the past and wind accounted for a major chunk considering the Generation Based Incentives (GBI) were in place until March 2017. How are the budget estimates for 2017-18 FY expected to be close to last year when the major financial incentive of GBI has been waived off? There have been no known policy announcement that can justify this estimate.

Subsidies

National Clean Energy and Environment Fund (NCEEF)

A topic that needs further debate considering that the new proposal of  Govt. is to use this fund for compensating states for the loss of revenues from GST implementation. I had earlier pointed out NCEEF allocation had to be re-looked considering its objectives (NCEEF: A review). The survey points out the NCEEF has been under utilized, no projects have been recommended by Inter Ministerial Group (IMG) to be funded from this corpus for the past two years.

NCEF

Overall, summaries from a few analysis are highly debatable especially related to social costs of renewable energy. But, the Economic Survey brings out the major topics for discussion in the public domain, a clear indication that the government is actively pursuing these policy objectives. The chief economist has promised to release all the data pertaining to the economic survey in public domain in due course and I’m looking forward to it.

On a personal note, I’m glad that a chapter in Economic Survey talks about Climate Change, Sustainable Development and Energy in the same breadth, the very topics I have been writing about in my website.

 

 

 

 

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Will Wind-Solar hybrid projects take off?

In the run-up leading to a record installation of wind and solar projects in India 2016 saw a slew of major announcements from the Government. One of the policies that received much fanfare was the announcement of Wind-Solar Hybrid policy. However, its been well over an year and yet there seems to be no final regulation on that front.

Highlights from draft national wind-solar hybrid policy (2016)

  • Wind-solar hybrid capacity target of 10GW.
  • The policy envisages wind-solar hybrid integration at both the DC and AC side.
  • Hybridization of existing wind/solar project permitted provided the total capacity is within the evacuation limit.
  • Tariff for power generated could be FiT fixed by state regulators or discovered through competitive tariff.
  • All fiscal incentives available for wind/solar to be provided for hybrid projects.

Following up on the announcement at the national level, Andhra Pradesh (AP) released its draft wind-solar hybrid policy in 2016. AP govt. went ahead with finer definitions of capacities and other functional modalities but, there is no update on the final policy yet.

  • Target of 3000MW of wind-solar hybrid capacity by 2019-20.
  • System integration permitted in pooling sub-station or co-injection after inverter.
  • The hybrid policy also to look at other emerging technologies like energy storage systems.
  • At locations where wind density is higher, solar capacity to be lower and vice versa.
  • APTRANSCO to consider evacuation based on ampacity rather than MVA/MW connectivity.
  • No additional charges to be levied if additional wind/solar capacity is below the sanctioned transmission capacity.
  • Policy envisages both DC and AC integration. Also supports existing/allotted projects to be integrated as hybrid project.
  • Capacity split between wind and solar to be in the ratio 1:0.6 to 1:1.5
  • Wind and solar generation to be metered separately and paid based on the tariff set by state regulator for different voltage levels at project site.
  • 25 year exemption of transmission, distribution and cross subsidy charges for captive/ open access.
  • Must run status for hybrid projects. (Read more about the latest issue with must-run status)

solarAnother state, Gujarat,  released a draft version of wind-solar hybrid policy in early 2017 but is yet to be finalized. Gujarat, unlike AP lacked clarity even in the draft policy. The basic requirement of allowing wind and solar to use the same evacuation system was being challenged with metering allowed only at the pooled sub-station level. Globally, wind-solar hybrid projects have taken off pretty well (read more about a project by juwi). In India, NTPC has taken the lead role with a project ongoing near its thermal plant in Karnataka which was won by Siemens-Gamesa, 2MW wind and 1.37MW of solar. (Read more)

In order to enable large scale development of wind-solar hybrid projects, there is a need for clarity on the tariff (and metering) considering the recent low tariffs in India (More on solar tariffs in India). Power evacuation has to be on a common transmission line unlike the one proposed by Gujarat state. Its high time the regulators open up the forums for discussion on the draft policies and finalise the regulations, until then the hybrid projects are likely to stay grounded.

 

 

 

Must-run or merit order despatch?

The proposed regulations from the Madhya Pradesh state electricity regulator (draft regulation) has brought the debate of merit-order vs must-run for Renewable Energy (RE) projects to main stream yet again. Incidentally, the draft National Energy Policy (NEP) proposed by NITI Aayog hints at withdrawal of must-run status for RE in the long run leading up to 2040( Read Why NEP is missing the big picture?). The draft NEP also proposes to withdraw other RE oriented benefits like non-levy of inter-state transmission charges.

Indian Electricity Grid Code (IEGC)

” All renewable energy power plants, except for biomass power plants, , and non-fossil fuel based cogeneration plants whose tariff is determined by the CERC shall be treated as ‘MUST RUN’ power plants and shall not be subjected to ‘merit order despatch’ principles”.- IEGC, 2010

The point of debate will be, are the current solar and wind tariffs determined by CERC for this regulation to hold good?

The 4th amendment of IEGC in 2016 brings back the discussion on ‘Merit order despatch’ however, it is only referenced to highlight the need from a technical minimum operation of thermal power plants.

The proposed amendment to the MP state government order on ‘Cogeneration and Generation of Electricity from Renewable Sources of Energy’ proposes, “The generation from Co-generation and Renewable Sources of Energy shall be subject to “Scheduling” and “Merit Order Despatch Principles” as decided by the Commission from time to time.”

The NREL study ‘ Greening the Grid’ clearly argues for a case of must-run for renewable energy projects or to radically shift to a merit-order despatch that considers production costs and not tariffs. The variable costs of existing fossil fleet is less considering they are paid an annual fixed availability cost. The study further recommends having an limit on annual curtailment hours embedded in the PPA to protect RE developers.

GTG

RE curtailment in 2022 could be between 8-16GW. (NREL)

What is required?

Merit order at regional & national level based on production costs and not just variable tariffs!

Regional coordination of resources will result in low variable cost resources from one state to displace expensive generation in other states. It is likely to happen considering a large part of recent ‘record-breaking’ renewable energy projects are slated in to come only in a few states in India. The NREL study concludes that having merit-order with scheduling and despatch optimized at regional and national level could result in a savings of 2.8% (₹ 6300CR) and 3.5% (₹7800CR) respectively by 2022 under the 175GW RE scenario.

Policy makers should envisage an alternate to merit-order despatch that is based on production costs and not just variable tariffs which will boost the confidence of RE developers who currently hedge their financial risks to anticipated curtailment.