Assembly elections may further delay solar mission phase 2

Saturday 21 September 2013

Union Cabinet yet to approve plan; model code of conduct may be announced anytime in states like Rajasthan, making launch difficult

The already-delayed launch of phase two of the Jawaharlal Nehru National Solar Mission (JNNSM) may get delayed further. Upcoming Assembly elections, lack of clarity over domestic content (sourcing equipment from domestic market) and procedural delays are some of the obstacles. The first phase of JNNSM ended in March 2013.

The Ministry of New and Renewable Energy (MNRE) released the policy guidelines for 750 MW of solar photovoltaic power under phase II in April this year but the tenders are yet to be floated. Under JNNSM, the ministry aims to install 20,000 MW of grid-connected solar power by 2022. The second phase has a target of 9,000 MW grid-connected and 800 MW off-grid solar power by 2017.

MNRE sent the phase two document to the Union Cabinet earlier this month but it is yet to be approved. Senior officials of MNRE fear that if model code of conduct is imposed in states where Assembly elections are due later this year then launch of the 750 MW projects may become difficult. Rajasthan, for example, which has a huge potential for solar power has elections slated for November. The model code of conduct is expected to be imposed anytime between 25 and 30 September. “Then we might have to take special permission of the Election Commission to launch the second phase,” said a senior official of MNRE. In the first phase of the 1,000MW, only 500 MW has been connected to the grid so far because most of the Concentrated Solar Power projects could not be commissioned in time (See ‘Sun block’).

Matter of domestic content 

Decision over how much percentage of solar power equipment should be sourced from domestic industry (domestic content) also took a lot of time. MNRE had a bad experience in the first phase which mandated that projects using crystalline silicon photovoltaic (PV) technology should source equipments domestically. On the other hand, projects using thinfilm PV technology were allowed to source equipment from anywhere across the world. This resulted in an average of 60 per cent of projects using thinfilm technology from abroad. This led to domestic industry bleeding profusely (See ‘Sunshine sector looses sheen’).

“As we do not want to repeat what happened in first phase, MNRE has proposed that 50 per cent of the projects in phase two would have domestic content,” said the senior official, “and, it would be technology neutral.” It means, both the PV technologies—crystalline silicon and thinfilms—will be treated at par. But till the Cabinet approves it, nothing can be said with certainty, the official added. Farooq Abdullah, minister of new and renewable energy, had said in a conference in June this year that the government wants to encourage domestic industry. The project developers and manufacturers are anxiously waiting for the clarity on domestic content issue.

MNRE says that the process of getting comments from different authorities and revision and re-revision of phase two document also took a considerable time. The ministry if expecting that the Cabinet will clear the phase two document before the September-end.
 

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