Fanning an alternative
Today Maharashtra is second only to Tamil Nadu in terms of installed capacity to generate wind power; as on March 31 this year 1,756 mw. The potential? A whopping 3,650 mw in 28 feasible sites.
"The incentives offered are a win-win situation for wind farm developers," explains Mahesh Zagade, director general of Pune-based Maharashtra Energy Development Agency (meda), the state's nodal agency promoting non-conventional and renewable sources of energy. "We offer a differential wind power tariff of Rs 3.50 per unit with annual escalation of 15 paisa for 13 years. The sales tax subsidy has also helped. Central incentives--an 80 per cent accelerated depreciation, 10-year tax holiday--and indirect tax benefits, such as on custom and excise duties, altogether make it highly viable for business houses to enter this emerging business."
Almost everyone here talks in terms of installed capacity.What is not discussed is how much power wind farms actually generate. As per meda data, the installed capacity of 1,756 mw generated about 1,804 million units of electricity. Break these figures up; the picture short-circuits
1 mw means 1,000 units generated (1 unit is one kw in one hour; thus 1 mw is 1,000 kw). A capacity of 1,756 mw ought to translate to about 1.756 million units in an hour. Bring in a variable, uncontrollable natural raw material (wind isn't coal), as the state regulator has, allowing an average of 20 per cent plant load factor (plf).
We come to the nub in 2007-08, wind farms in Maharashtra generated just 1,804 million units. This means they functioned at a plf of just 11.7 per cent. Pathetically low, compared even to the low average countrywide; much lower than other wind states such as Tamil Nadu and Karnataka. Interesting and baffling, generation has decreased, even as capacity's increased. In 2002-03, wind plants in Maharashtra operated at 19 per cent efficiency. Now, with capacity increased manifold, plf is down (see table Puzzling little fact).
Are the government's estimates erroneous? Or...?
This is the real story of wind energy in India. The sector has, rightly, received huge incentives, but these have not upped power generation. As it emerges, companies have merrily installed plants, not to generate power, but to gain from tax and depreciation benefits. The business seems a closed loop--the turbine-maker makes deals with investor companies to set up plants. Nobody quite knows the cost of a windmill. The turbine-maker gains; the investor profits. Indeed, nobody seems really interested in selling power, increasing efficiency and cutting costs. How does it work?
Windfall of incentives
Till 1993, the then Union ministry of non-conventional energy sources (mnes), now the Union Ministry of New and Renewable Energy (mnre), provided capital subsidy to set up wind farms. Subsequently, onus shifted to state governments. The Union government, however, continued to provide accelerated depreciation (80 per cent in the first year), virtually allowing an investor to write off its capital in a year, and a 10-year tax holiday (see table They call it the breeze).
Maharashtra launched its wind power policy in 1998. "It fixed wind power tariff at Rs 2.25 per unit with 5 per cent annual escalation for the first 10 years," informs Sudhir Kumar, general manager, meda. "The government also decided to provide infrastructure development support to private developers...(and) capital subsidy of 30 per cent, octroi exemption and various sales tax benefits."
The policy was revised in February 2004. The revision, kinder, set a target of 750 mw wind power by March 2007. As more incentive, it offered electricity duty exemption for 5 years along with infrastructure support (all money on making approach roads, erecting transmission lines and installing a substation would be put up by the state). A fund was set up to promote renewable energy, by imposing cess on commercial and industrial consumers (see box For equity's sake).
Maharashtra also decided to pay for evacuation-feeding power from windmills to transmission grids-by strengthening transmission and distribution lines and erecting 33 kilo volt lines from sites to high-voltage and extra-high-voltage substations.
What a boost Pune-based wind farm developer, Suzlon Energy Ltd, demanded and got Rs 58 crore as evacuation arrangement for its three wind farms, for instance.
According to Zagade, the cost of this arrangement depends on the distance of the wind turbines from sub-stations. The cost per mw of wind power comes to Rs 25-30 lakh. "The developer/company carries out evacuation arrangement and gets this cost reimbursed by the local distribution licensee (50 per cent) and the green cess (50 per cent)."
|Puzzling little fact
i.e Plant load factor, Maharashtra (2000 - 2008)
|Generation (IN MILLION KWH)
|Installed Capacity (IN MWH)
|Plant Load Factor (IN PERCENTAGE)
|They call it the breeze
Central and state incentives to wind farming in India
|State level incentives
|Wheeling charge of mere 2 per cent
||80 per cent accelerated depreciation on wind farm equipment/devices
|Uniform T&D loss of 5 per cent
||10 years tax holiday for wind farms
|Buy-back tariff of Rs 3.50 per unit with 15 paisa escalation for 13 years
||Custom duty exemption (Notification No. 21/2002-custom dated 01-03-2002)
|Third party sale and self-use allowed
||Excise duty exemption (Notification No. 6/2002- Central Excise and amendments Thereof)
|For evacuation arrangement (laying down high tension cables, feeder, sub-station, etc), 50 per cent money given as subsidy through green fund and rest 50 per cent as interest-free loan
|No electricity duty levied for first 5 years from the date of commissioning of the projects for captive consumption
|Construction of approach roads to be fully funded through green fund
|Diversion of forest land for wind farms with a lease period of 30 years
|Source Compiled from Information Booklet on Wind Energy, MEDA, Pune, Government of Maharashtra.
|Cost break up of Suzlon’s 1.5 mw wind turbine generator
||Rs lakh per 1.5 mw WTG
|Cost of land
|Cost of tower
|Cost of WTG
|Erection and commissioning charges
|Infrastructure development (Rs 30 lakh per mw)
"There is no doubt wind power and other renewable sources of energy need to be promoted. But, at present, too many incentives are offered to private wind farm developers that are not translating into more green power to consumers. Promoters need a conducive environment, but that should not translate into unnecessary private profits with no public good," says Shantanu Dixit, member of the energy group of Prayas, a Pune-based policy research and advocacy group.
They also allege a huge subsidy, to private developers, on capital installation as well as a high--they say, unjustified--tariff. Zagade says capital subsidy on sales tax was part of the 1998 policy but got withdrawn in 2002. In the past, "if the plf was below 12 per cent, then no subsidy was given, but as the plf increased, the sales tax rebate also increased. A 12 per cent plf got 50 per cent sales tax subsidy; 13 per cent plf got 60 per cent; plf above 17 per cent got 100 per cent sales tax rebate."
Things have got bad
In a recent case, the state energy agency discovered a wind farm that existed only on paper. The company, M/s Tuljhabhavani Wind Farms Pvt Ltd, based in Satara, forged its no-objection certificate from the zoology department and the mining department.
In April 2006, the i-t department in Pune began investigating Suzlon's wind-farms as part of a nationwide operation--spanning Gujarat, Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, Daman and Diu, Pondicherry, Delhi and Karnataka--to check for false depreciation claims, and ascertain if equipment suppliers and state electricity boards connived with equipment owners to manipulate such claims. i-t authorities believe windmill owners make false depreciation claims to evade taxes; to the tune of Rs 700-1,000 crore.
In 2003, the Maharashtra Electricity Regulatory Commission (merc) raised differential tariff for wind power from Rs 2.25 per unit to Rs 3.50 per unit, with a 15 paise per year escalation for 13 years for projects commissioned till March 2007 (now extended to 2010). "At policy level, Maharashtra was the first state to declare such a tariff. Other states like Karnataka and Rajasthan are fast catching up," says G M Pillai, founder and director-general of Pune-based World Institute of Sustainable Energy (wise). But industry sources claim business houses are least bothered; they just desire income tax benefits.
Such is the 'opaque' wind business. Companies determine their costs, and with only a few companies making wind mills, there is no competition and even less transparency. It is a closed cycle--a wind turbine company interested in selling equipment sets up the plant on behalf of the private entrepreneur interested only in depreciation benefits. "In India there is no correct data on cost per mw of wind turbine generator (wtg). Companies like Suzlon sell their 1.5 mw wtg for over Rs 9 crore, but what is its actual manufacture cost? No one knows; this data is not available in the public domain," says an expert on condition of anonymity (see table 6.5 crore/mw!).
It is also a sweet real estate deal (see box Dhule's fighting). The wind farm developer--a Suzlon or a Vestas--also keeps the land to itself. "A wind farm developer approaches an investor, telling him all he needs to do is get the bank loan for capital investment. Rest is taken care of," explains an expert on condition of anonymity. "In return, the investor gets income tax benefits and also money through selling generated wind energy to the grid. The developer gets to sell turbines and is paid annually for operation and maintenance (o&m)."
"For instance," the expert continues, "neg Micon asks for Rs 9.50 lakh per annum per wind energy generator (weg) with an escalation of 7.5 per cent per annum as o&m charge. This increases to Rs 16 lakh per annum per weg after the 5th year of commissioning. Suzlon demands Rs 17 lakh per weg per annum as o&m charges. This is nothing but loot; there are no running charges for a farm running on free wind." Also, none of the companies give any guarantee on the plf of the turbine, often quoted at 30 per cent, but usually is 10-15 per cent.
The buyer and the seller need to sign a power purchase agreement (ppa). If a developer intends selling wind power to the state grid, a 13-year ppa is signed, a limit merc has set.
Here, developers have an edge. Once the windmill is installed, there is minimum maintenance cost and no fuel cost. According to Wind Energy by mnre, wind power machines can be maintained at Rs 0.25 to Rs 0.60 per kwh, with a payback period of 5-8 years.
Down To Earth tried to get data on payments made to various wind farm developers in last two years, against the number of units fed into the state grid it isn't available. "As per the Electricity Act, 2003, the entire power sector has been deregulated. A seller is free to sell its power to anyone--local distribution licensee, third party sale, captive use. Buyer and seller sign an agreement whose details they need not share. Hence, we do not know what kind of payments have been made to wind power companies. For that data, contact individual companies or local distribution licensees," says Zagade.
Under the renewable portfolio standard (rps) or renewable purchase order (rpo), electricity suppliers are required to provide a percentage of their supply from renewable energy sources. In India 12 states have declared this green energy quota--between 2-10 per cent of total power supply.
merc introduced rps in Maharashtra through an August 16, 2006, order. As per this order, three utilities supplying power to Mumbai--Reliance Energy Ltd, Tata Power and Brihan Mumbai Electric Supply and Transport (best)--have to buy, every year, a minimum amount of renewable energy "The Percentage Specification stipulated ... is intended to facilitate growth of renewable energy sector and to harness renewable energy resources within the State to the maximum possible".
In case utilities fail to meet rps obligation, merc has specified a penalty. "The Commission rules that during the first year of rps operating framework, i.e., 2006-07, there shall not be any charge towards enforcement. However, eligible persons shall be liable to pay at the rate of Rs 5.00 per unit of shortfall in 2007-08, Rs 6.00 per unit of shortfall in 2008-09, and Rs 7.00 per unit of shortfall for 2009-10."
How to use this tool to create a market for green power?
In the first year, the three Mumbai suppliers did not meet their 3 per cent target and were exempted from penalty. In June 2007, meda set up a 17-member Maharashtra rps Technical Task Force to review availability of renewable energy, and work out projections to meet rps obligations up to 2009-2010. This task force is yet to submit its final report.
Says S A Puranik, additional general manager (supply), best, Mumbai, "rps is a good policy decision and we are keen to use green power. But due to shortage of green power and statutory obligation imposed on distribution licensees to procure fixed percentage of total power requirement through renewable sources, the traders and generators are exploiting the situation and quoting unreasonable and unrealistic rates. We therefore are proposing to make our own arrangements to meet the rps target. There should not only be intra-state capping of tariff but also inter-state, which will create a competitive market."
But merc chairperson Pramod Deo is quick to clarify, "rps has now become a sort of incentive; utilities realise it is cheaper and easier to set up their own renewable energy plants, than to buy from other developers. In fact Tata Power has already started work on its own wind farm. The capping or ceiling on the rate at which green power is to be procured by the utilities is inconsequential because rps is essentially a promotional drive. The main motive is not to penalize the utilities but to make them generate green power to meet the future power requirement of the state. In case utilities still face problems, they can approach the commission and then we will look into it," Deo told Down To Earth.
1.6 per cent
On the face of it, the Indian wind energy sector is booming. Installed wind power capacity has increased six-fold in the last seven years--from 1,338 mw in 2000-01 to 8,754 mw in 2007-08 (see table Happy drift
).In the last three years alone, about 5,150 mw has been added. As on March 31 this year, wind power accounted for 6.1 per cent of the total installed capacity to generate power in India.
The biggest challenge for the wind-power industry in India is to come to terms with the need to generate more power and to accurately account for it (see table Short shrift?
collates data on the installed wind energy capacity, but most experts believe its data on wind power generation is questionable. The Central Electricity Authority does not collect data on wind power generation either.From the data mnre
provides, adding capacity has not converted to actual power generation.
The average plant load factor, getting better, is still around 15 per cent (see table Could be much better
). As a result, even as wind power generation has increased from 1,577 million units (mu
) in 2000-2001 to 11,413 mu
in 2007-2008, it accounts for a meagre 1.6 per cent of all power generated.
Moreover, industry is worried about stagnation in installation. Write Mahesh Vipradas and Niraj Kumar of the Indian Wind Energy Association, in their recent assessment of the sector "The annual
installation in 2007-08 is the lowest in the last three years, making us ask is this the beginning of the end of the Indian wind success story?" They believe policy measures enacted in the past have had their run of success. Now, more steps are needed to re-energise the sector.
What is needed? How will it come about?
Wind is big
plan has set what industry considers a modest target of 10,000 mw capacity addition in five years. Everyone agrees that much more is possible. But for this to happen, big time, the business of wind must be into energy generation and not just encashing credits because of investment subsidies.
Policy agenda 1 Move from investment-based incentives to generation-based incentives
It can be argued the plant load factor data is wrong, that India actually utilises installed capacity much better. This is possible; individual wind farms do that.
But without data, collected regularly and validated, it is impossible to agree. It is also difficult to estimate what should be the optimal plant load factor (plf
), in different states, different wind regimes. In Europe, it varies from 25 per cent to 30 per cent. In Spain, for instance, load factor is 30 per cent.In India, most regulators peg it around 20 per cent. Therefore, the current plf
for India, as a whole--at 15 per cent, and for some states as low as 10 per cent--is unacceptable.
The current sop-soaked package pushes industry towards investment, but not generation. The way ahead is to move industry to invest in capital and pay for its generation of power, through the compulsory renewable portfolio standard (rps
) and carbon credits from the Clean Development Mechanism (cdm
The cost of wind power is the cost of the capital investment in the wind turbine and its infrastructure. After that the 'farm' just runs. But it is that cost of infrastructure which breaks the economics of wind. Industry analysts say cost of capital is increasing--they now peg it at Rs 6 crore/mw, as compared to Rs 4-5 crore/mw earlier. This is paradoxical; the market dictates that when the scale of operations increases cost per unit should decrease.
In other countries, the cost is declining. In Spain in 1986, for instance, it took us
$2,259 to produce one kw
of wind energy. By 2006, such cost halved to us
$1,259 (down from Rs 9 crore per mw to Rs 5 crore). But then, wind in India is an occasion to pamper. It is a seller's market here, and their order books are closed for some years to come.
Everything depends on cost of capital. If cheap, investors do not have to pay high interest rates; they stand to gain, faster with fiscal incentives and sale of energy. If the company is cash rich and also has profits it wants to make good, then the 80 per cent accelerated depreciation comes very handy. Assuming an investment of Rs 36 crore for a 6 mw wind plant (at Rs 6 crore/mw), the company can show a depreciation, in the very first year, of Rs 4.8 crore, virtually writing off its capital. Profits from sale of energy make it sweeter.
But if the company has to raise funds from the open market--even assuming it raises 50 per cent funds at a low 10 per cent interest rate, even assuming the depreciation benefit--it would end up paying through its nose, breaking even in 5-7 years, depending on the interest burden.
No wonder, then, that wind energy is not the business of energy companies, but cash rich entities wanting tax cuts. Is this why hotel companies, spinning mills, temple trusts, even film stars, are into wind energy? No power generators?
In the current bouquet, two incentives are key tax benefits in the form of accelerated depreciation and payment for the units of wind energy generated at premium rates. Currently, states have arbitrarily differing rates for wind power tariff, which (see table What's the logic?).Tamil Nadu, most wind-advanced, has the lowest tariff. Many say this is curtailing further growth; ironically, the state has the highest plf
The big question would the 'right' tariff be to move towards a generation-based regime? mnre
has recently taken a first step, announcing, after much huffing, a scheme for generation-based incentive for grid-connected wind power. The scheme is for those who cannot (and will not) avail the depreciation benefits, proposing Rs 0.50 per unit (kw
h) over and above the tariff fixed by the state as an incentive. Most industry insiders welcome this step, but say it is too tentative to move the country into a generation-based regime. They argue Rs 0.50 per unit will not drive operators into this business. Nobody is willing to commit to the price of wind power that is generation-based, but say the range should be Rs 4-7 per unit, based on the cost of capital and plant load factor.
The question is how can we get there?
Policy agenda 2 Change CDM rules to support a higher premium price for wind power
The wind power industry is rushing to get carbon credits from cdm
but is tripping on its convoluted rules and processes. Most wind power installations have applied for cdm,
or are in the process of doing so. Of the 966 cdm
projects from India, about 20 per cent are wind power projects. They account for about 12 per cent of all the Certified Emission Reductions (cer
s) to be sold by all cdm
projects from India, by 2012, to the developed world. Currently, only 54 projects are registered (see table we want
CERs), adding up to roughly 15 per cent of the country's installed capacity. But if all projects in the pipeline get registered, it would add up to 4,150 mw, roughly half the installed capacity.
Registered wind cdm
Installed capacity, registered wind cdm
projects 1,302 mw
s registered wind cdm
projects could accumulate by 2012 18,134 kcer
s (about Rs 2,350 crore @ 20 per cer
s issued so far by registered wind cdm
projects 1,905 kcer
s (about Rs 250 crore @ 20 per cer
All wind cdm
projects (registered, in the pipeline) 195
Installed capacity of all wind cdm
projects 4,150 mw
s all wind cdm
projects in India could accumulate by 2012 46,438 k cer
s (11.6 per cent of all cer
s gene-rated by Indian cdm
projects), about Rs 6,000 crore @ 20 per cer
At the current cer
unit price, in the European Climate Exchange, 21-23, cdm
can play an important role in underwriting the cost of the energy generated.
|What’s the logic?
Statewise wind power tariff and renewable energy standard
||Buy-back rate per kWh
||Rs 3.37 with effect from 1.4.2004.
Frozen for 5 years
||Rs 3.37 fixed for 20 years
||Rs 3.40 fixed for 10 years
||Rs 3.14 fixed for 20 years
||Rs 3.97 (with decrease of 7 paise up to
4th year) then fixed at Rs 3.30 from
5th year onwards uniformly for
20 years (w.e.f.11.6.2004)
||Rs 3.50 with escalation of 15 paise per year for 13 years
||Rs 3.59 for Jaisalmer; Rs 3.14 for Jodhpur and Rs 3.67 for other districts
||To be decided on case to case basis with a cap of Rs 4
|*RPS means renewable portfolio standard, whereby electricity suppliers are required to
provide a percentage of their supply from renewable resources.
Sourcehttp//www.cwet.tn.nic.in/html/information_wtt.html as viewed on May 22, 2008
Where is the will to crunch workable numbers?
|Capacity of the Wind Turbine
||1 mw (1,000 kW)
|Annual power generation at 20% PLF
||1,750 mw/h (1,750,000 units)
|Annual Certified Emission Reduction
Units (assuming 1 mw/h wind
power leads to a reduction of
0.9 tonnes of carbon dioxide emissions
from fossil fuel-based power plants)
|Annual revenue generation from CERs (assuming the price of CERs is €20)
||€31,500 (Rs 20,45,500 at the current exchange rate of Rs 65 per €) or
|Annual revenue generation from sales of wind power (@ Rs 3.50 per unit)
Total revenue per kWh
|We want CERs
Registered wind projects
||Expected CERs till 2012 (kCERs)
||CERs issued (kCERs)
With this price and assuming 20 per cent power generation, wind energy would get an additional benefit of Rs 1.20 per unit, which, if added to the price of Rs 3.50, would make the unit revenue a competitive Rs 4.70 (see table cdm maths
earning could be 20-25 per cent of the total revenue generated.
Change CDM rules cdm
is tied up in its own convoluted rules of proving 'additionality', in turn putting wind projects on the spot, causing them to wriggle through this clause "A cdm
project activity is additional if anthropogenic emissions of greenhouse gases by sources are reduced below those that would have occurred in the absence of the registered cdm
project activity". In other words, the project could not have been possible without cdm
. This means proponents have to apply before the project comes up, proving it will be impossible without cdm
Wind power projects do replace anthropogenic emissions of greenhouse gases from fossil fuel plants. The question, therefore, is if the 'additional money' from cdm
is required to make the project financially competitive vis-a-vis fossil fuel plants. Considering the subsidy package available to wind power projects in India, most wind power projects are competitive vis-a-vis fossil fuel plants, mainly because most wind power developers avail the 80 per cent depreciation in the first year, so reducing their tax burden. With all benefits, their Internal Rate of Return is as good as other energy projects. Nevertheless, wind power projects that apply for cdm
are forced, through financial and book-keeping tricks, to show, in the existing regime, their project is not viable without cdm
money. Few are caught; most sail through.
This must change. For renewable energy projects like wind power, the clause on financial additionality should be removed. Instead, cdm
should be used to give incentive to the 'programme of wind' energy. This would require the government or an agency to submit a programmatic cdm
and demand all projects of wind are cleared, with benefit. cer
s must be used to pay a premium for green power, adding not Rs 0.50, as the current generation-based incentive scheme does, but Rs 1, or more, to each unit. This will give wind the power it needs to blow better.
Policy agenda 3 Use renewable portfolio standard to build India-wide market for green energy
India has its own version of the German-renewable energy feed-in law, under which utilities have to purchase a certain proportion of their energy from green sources. The renewable portfolio standard (rps
), which each state can individually determine, can be a powerful tool to promote green energy like wind, as producers can get premium rates and a market. But, currently, it is struggling to make a difference.
First, nobody is responsible for collating information on how rps
is used in different states; how much green power is bought and at what price. Information, scattered with state electricity regulators, is impossible to trace. It is also not clear, as in Maharashtra, if the utilities are let off if they do not meet the compulsory green quota. It is necessary the Central Electricity Authority be tasked with this job, so that promotion and policy correction are possible.
Secondly, it is clear some states, with high wind and other renewable energy potential, have set low quotas, or their quota for green energy is also exhausted.
For instance, Gujarat has set a meagre limit of 2 per cent, restricting its green energy growth. Then, in Karnataka and Tamil Nadu, that have high wind potential, even their high quota of 10 per cent has been exhausted, say industry experts. This leads to a paradox a high-potential state is not providing incentives for markets and investment. It is capping wind, literally.
In this scenario, says wind energy expert Rakesh Kacker, former head of the Indian Wind Energy Association, government must allow for inter-state transfer of rps
; it would facilitate green energy growth. He cites the case of the Delhi Electricity Regulatory Commission, which has stipulated power utilities supplying the capital will have to source 1 per cent of green power. Given that Delhi does not have any 'green power' source as such, they would have to purchase paper certificates of green power from other states.
This will also push towards generation-based incentives, as companies will install plants to get the green power premium, or utilities will set up their own to meet the green quota. But for this, penality provisions must be used and must sting.
Policy agenda 4 Make wind truly green by ensuring benefits to local communities
Wind power needs land. It could be private land. It is bound to be government land--revenue land or forest land (as, controversially by law, in the Dhule case). In all this, local communities--villagers who live in the vicinity of the wind farm, aware it produces electricity--get little other than the constant noise the plant produces, and the vibration, caused by the working of the turbine, that literally disturbs their life.
It is clear that wind, at best an intermittent generator, cannot easily become a fulcrum of distributive supply. It will remain a grid-connected energy system, for now. But this doesn't mean local communities cannot get benefits--say, rent or sharing from the lease of land--and power supply guarantees from government and the company.
If such benefits, tangible, do not flow, acquiring land to set up wind energy plants, let us call it land for wind (an elemental exchange which, in India, can only be wrested from people, unless they choose to give it away by accepting compensation) is bound to become ever more contentious. If not done democratically, the push for wind energy can well become just another alienating 'infrastructure' programme, which (like all such programmes hitherto, as villagers perceive) takes benefits from local communities and gives nothing back. It will be so understood, and so resisted, as just another brown--not green--energy programme.
There is a big potential for wind energy in this country. It is a fillip to energy security. The question now is if the government can bite the bullet so that wind is not just another big-buck business but one that welcomes a long-term energy solution.
With inputs from Sunita Narain, Chandra Bhushan, Mario D'Souza and Kushal Pal Singh Yadav