Energy

COVID-19 will be a roadblock to solar power in India

The lockdown caused by the pandemic will make it difficult for the country to meet its solar power targets

 
By Kundan Pandey
Last Updated: Thursday 02 April 2020
Photo: Pixabay

India will find it harder to meet its target of 100 gigawatt (GW) installed solar energy capacity by 2022 due to the 21-day nationwide lockdown in the wake of novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19), experts have said.

The lockdown has halted construction works of projects totalling about 5 GW. At present, India has 31.5 GW commissioned capacity of utility-scale solar and 5.6 GW of rooftop solar. Almost 29 GW of utility-scale solar is in the planning stage.

“Projects totalling 10-11 GW capacity are at a fairly advanced stage of construction in the country,” Vinay Rustogi, managing director of Bridge To India, a Delhi-based renewables consultancy, said in a webinar organised by the company on March 30, 2020

“About 50 per cent of these are projects where on-site activities have begun. These will be directly impacted by the current lockdown,” he added.

“Most of the construction workers have returned to their native places. Even if the government ends the lockdown by mid-April, it will take a lot of time to remobilise all the labourers. The recovery could take significant time,” Monika Rathi, head, business development at Mahindra Susten, said at the webinar.

Many of the projects that were stalled, were supposed to be completed by September-October. This will be difficult now, especially because July-August is the rainy season and construction cannot happen in those months.

The government has taken steps to ease the situation but they are unlikely to help the sector. For instance, the Union Ministry of New and Renewable Energy (MNRE), has issued a notification to bring power production at solar plants under essential services.

Such services will be allowed to run during the lockdown. However, works in solar plants under construction are not covered in the notification. All projects will be given extra time for completion but the extension will be decided on a case-to-case basis, MNRE has said.

The suspension of trade with China is also a big impediment. The COVID-19 scare is threatening to slow down the solar sector in India by causing a disruption in the supply chain as China leads in manufacturing, Pinaki Bhattacharyya, co-founder and chief executive of Amp Energy India, a global renewable energy company, told Down To Earth (DTE). 

“The pandemic has disrupted production and transport in China and this has severely impacted delivery timelines of key equipment. The virus outbreak has increased the cost of photo voltaic modules, which will thereby increase the solar tariffs,” he added. 

About 90 percent of solar modules and cells used in Indian projects are sourced from China and Malaysia. “India has a reasonably high dependence on imports, especially from China,” Sanjeev Aggarwal, founder and chief executive of Amplus Solar, a Gurugram-based firm, said.   

Power demand in the country has come down about 25 per cent in the last week of March, primarily because industries, private offices and commercial complexes are shut, TR Kishore Nair, chief operating officer of AVAADA, a Delhi-based renewable energy company, said. 

The fear is that the state government may start asking generators to renegotiate power purchase agreements, which should not be allowed, he added.

Research groups and consultancies have already revised their estimate for India this year. Gurugram-based JMK Research & Analytics says that about 8.3 GW of new utility-scale solar projects and 2 GW of rooftop solar projects are expected to be commissioned in India in 2020. 

The group’s earlier estimates for 2020 was 11 GW of utility-scale solar and 2.5 GW of rooftop solar.

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