New Hampshire, USA -- Last week India finally held its national solar auction, the first in two years, seen as the least risky of several national and state-level solar auctions held over the past few years.
Demand was as heated as expected: 58 bids were received pledging to develop more than 2.1 GW of solar energy capacity, nearly triple the 750-MW that state-run Solar Energy Corp. of India (SECI) was offering. Here's the full list of eager developers, which includes Azure Power India (200 MW), Welspun Energy (160 MW), Goldman Sachs-backed local developer ReNew Solar Power (50 MW), First Solar (30 MW), and a handful of state-run utilities. Part of the spur behind the activity was the government's promises to cover as much as 30 percent of project costs; part of the delay was the adjustment of payout period from one year to five years. And perhaps part of the huge interest was the delay of the auction to help clarify some of its structure and sooth investor and developer concerns.
More than half of the bids (36 bids for 700 MW) proposed to take advantage of the domestic content requirement (DCR), more than double what SECI expected. Developers appear to be hedging reliance upon domestic suppliers' ability to support projects by de-emphasizing those requirements in favor of Viability Gap Funding (VGF), points out Bridge to India's Jasmeet Khurana. Another positive takeaway is that more than half (60 percent) of the bids in terms of capacity would end up being managed as an independent power producer (IPP), a big increase in their level of participation. Pure-play solar IPPs don't enjoy some advantages of tax incentives such as accelerated depreciation, but separating such tariffs is giving pure-play IPPs a more level playing field, he added.
IN THE NEWS
Japanese Solar PV Round-up: Panasonic and Epco are investing ¥300 million to establish a joint-venture that aims to sell solar power, targeting a 2016 timeframe when electricity retail market will be relaxed to let consumers choose suppliers. (Note Toshiba is eyeing a similar thrust into Germany.) And ReneSola has secured a 420-MW supply deal for 10 ground-mount solar panels in Japan's mountainous regions to an unidentified domestic developer, said to be the company's largest order ever in Japan; shipment deliveries start this month and will continue through December 2015. Other Japanese solar projects getting off the ground: SoftBank and Mitsui (a 43-MW plant in Tottori Prefecture), Japanese homebuilder Daiwa House (6-MW solar power plant in the western prefecture of Nara), Etrion and Hitachi High-Technologies (100 MW in the pipeline by end of this year).
China Shooting Higher for Renewables Targets? Underscoring its aggressive pursuit of renewable energy, China now plans to install up to 14 GW of solar and 18 GW of wind capacity this year -- more than the 13-15 GW each that some predicted -- plus another 20 GW of hydroelectric plants, according to reports citing China's National Energy Administration.
National Wind Mission in India: India's Ministry of New and Renewable Energy (MNRE) has laid out coordination for the domestic wind energy sector into a National Wind Energy Mission, exploring everything from land availability, grid integration, long-term policy framework, formation of an offshore wind agency, and even the restoration of accelerated depreciation which expired two years ago. Here's the list of presentations from the meeting.
Thai Biomass Developer Reiterates Big Plans: Universal Adsorbents & Chemicals (UAC) is reiterating its plans for developing 21 biomass power plants in the north and northeast of Thailand, slated to come online later this year, despite the recent political upheaval. Most of the 1.5-MW plants, each with a pricetag of 130-150 million baht (U.S. $4.0-4.5 million), will use Naiper grass to generate biomethane gas.