What the union budget (2018-19) means for Renewable Energy?

As yet another annual budget is presented, its time for a review just like in the previous years (Read more). This time, reviewing the budget from the Indian clean-tech sector’s perspective including a discussion with an expert from top global tax and advisory firm.

Listen to the complete budget discussion on the Emerging Tech Podcast (below).

Key Highlights

  • Renewable Energy budget outlay increased for wind 400 to 750Cr for 4GW target RE capacity expected to contribute to 17% of power generation in 2018-19
    • Decreased outlay for solar 2661Cr to 2045 (10GW grid and 1GW rooftop target)
    • Green Energy Corridor outlay increased from 500 to 600Cr
    • Off grid solar budget increased from 700 to 849Cr
    • DDUGJY outlay decreased from 4814 to 3800Cr although Saubhagya has a separate allocation of 3700Cr
    • Integrated Power Development Scheme has an outlay reduction from 5821Cr to 4935Cr
    • FAME has been allotted 260Cr (Subsidy for 1000 cars and charging infra)
  • Smart Cities : Budget Increased from 9000Cr to 12169Cr
  • Promotion of Manufacturing (though MSIPS and other schemes) increased from 745Cr to 864Cr
  • Budget outlay increased for MNRE from 9466 to 10317Cr with MOP declining from 64318 to 53469Cr with major reduction for NTPC
  • Electrification of railways: 4000kms targeted for commission in FY 18-19
  • Customs duty reduction from 5% to 0% for solar glass
  • Customs duty increase for Complete Knock Down (CKD) of automobile parts from 10% to 15%
  • Customs duty on Lithium ion batteries for mobiles increased from 10 to 20%.
  • Social welfare surcharge of 10% instead of existing 3% on imports.

Renewable Energy in India, 2017: A review

The year 2017 has been yet another landmark year for the Indian energy sector. At a national aggregate level India recorded net surplus energy for the first time. It also turned to be a net exporter of energy.  Renewable Energy capacity addition accounts for more than 50% of the total capacity added in this year.  Starting with national level policies, we had the Goods & Service Tax rollout in July. Although electricity supply has been kept out of the GST purview, its impact is felt considering the project development costs saw a price correction in the market. At a high level, there was a change at the ministry with R K Singh replacing Piyush Goyal as the Power Minister.

A comprehensive National Energy Policy was promised to be out by end of 2017 but we only had the release of draft version in June. The draft policy did receive critical feedback on how the supply and demand scenarios’ were forecasted running up to 2040. In a recent comment, the government has said the policy is close to being finalized.

The year in review was discussed in two parts on the Emerging Tech Radio, a podcast that I host. On the first part, Harsh Thacker joined the conversation.

Similarly, a draft policy on introduction of energy storage systems was proposed and again the industry is eagerly looking forward to the final version on that.

On the projects front, large scale project tenders was the order of the day. Wind power projects which for long has sustained on Feed in Tariffs at state level had to compete on a competitive tariff determined through reverse auctions. Solar tariffs first breached 3 rupee/unit mark in the bid for Rewa solar project in Feb and subsequently saw further bids stay below the mark. (Read more about solar bids)

Renewable Energy projects in India: A year-end discussion with Vish Iyer on the second part of the year-end review.

A big news that brought some cheer in the year was the release of the greening of grid report, a report that concluded that integration of 175GW of RE would be a possibility by 2022. The study was a collaboration between the Indian and US governments through the PACE-D programme. However, the analysis did leave some experts asking for details. For e.g. the report claimed energy storage wouldn’t have a great impact on grid integration and was not considered in planning. In return, grid balancing was mainly considered with hydro, gas and thermal power plants. The analysis expects the thermal power plants to operate below their current minimum requirement of 55% PLF.

The economic survey that precedes the union budget had valuable insights as expected. However, an interesting analysis came in the second part of the report released in the second half of the year. The Chief Economic Adviser in the chapter Climate Change Sustainable Development and Energy highlights the energy trajectory in India like projecting RE would account for a 43% of total grid capacity by 2027. The survey chapter also looks at the costs and benefits of different energy sources. Like for instance, looks at the record low solar tariffs and asks a question on whether there is an opportunity lost in land given for solar if they tend to under-perform etc. However, the report did leave some unanswered questions in terms of showing a low social cost for per unit of electricity from coal in comparison to renewables. (Read more about the analysis)

Forum of Regulators signed MoU with National Association of Regulatory Utility Commissioners (NARUC) the US body that represents the state public service commissioners. The MoU is part of the USAID’s PACE-D project, ‘Greening the Grid’. The partnership also aims to look at sharing experience in market design between the two countries.

So yes, there is optimism in the industry (ME INCLUDED). With a new minister at the helm, there have been some radical steps taken in the last few months which has created a new wave of enthusiasm in the sector. As Vish  mentioned in the podcast a few times (above), the RE industry now sees a transformative phase as India marches on towards an ambitious goal of 175GW of RE by 2022.

On a personal note, wrapping up five years of blogging on this platform (In case you missed my 5 year review as a clean-tech evangelist, here). More to come for sure. Just that it’ll also include integration of my audio blogging platform aka podcast.

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.


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.


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)


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.


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.



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.


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.


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.