Category: renewable energy

Science and Politics

On April 22nd, 2017 over 1 million people hit the roads across the world in the march for science. The march for science is a celebration of science. However, there were murmurs of disgruntlement at the marches held at Washington D.C and other American cities against the current ruling regime in the US. Scientists, science enthusiasts, teachers, parents and students showed dissent in the form of placards and chants against the funding decisions of the Trump government. The federal budget of 2017 showed every sign of significantly impacting climate change programs. Some of the posters read ‘Trump’s team are like atoms, they make everything up’; ‘Alternative energy = jobs, alternative facts = lies’

Credit: @riseupready on instagram

While, we may want to think of Science as apolitical, however, the reality is far from truth. The fact is that the party that we elect to power can decide the course of research during its ruling years. Just this October, Trump agreed that while Climate change exists, he does not know if it’s man made. Since Trump’s appointment in 2016, the US has announced its withdrawal from the Paris Agreement on Climate Change. Strictly speaking, no country can take a departure from the treaty till before 4th Nov, 2019.

You may ask why Trump is such a naysayer of climate change. A political party’s election to the ruling office is guided by its mandate during the election drive. Donald trump had championed the cause of the neglected coal miners during his election drive. Not only this, he went on to call climate change a ‘hoax’ while emphasizing how it was a Chinese conspiracy to upend the American economy. His tweet claimed “”The concept of global warming was created by and for the Chinese in order to make U.S. manufacturing non-competitive”. Yes, you read that right.

No sooner was Trump made president that he appointed Ricky Perry, a known climate change denier, the Energy secretary. Mr. Perry had earlier sat on the corporate boards of oil pipeline companies. To add insult to injury, Scott Pruitt, nominated by Trump became the administrator of Environment Protection agency. Mr. Pruitt had earlier sued the EPA over its clean air regulations. During his short tenure as the administrator of the EPA, he weakened Ex-President Obama’s climate change regulations, known as the Clean Power Plan and delayed a rule that would require fossil fuel companies to rein in leaks of methane, a potent greenhouse gas, from oil and gas wells. It will not come as a surprise to know that Trump’s inauguration was funded heavily by Oil and Gas majors – Dow Chemical, Exxon Mobil Corp, Chevron, Citgo and BP Corporation. Joseph Craft and Christopher Cline who are both Coal company each gave an additional $1 million, as did chemical and mining company head Clifford Forrest 3 .  If you connect the dots, you can draw a line through Trump’s Election Drive – Government Appointments-Climate Policy changes.

Al Jazeera has covered the radical changes made to scientific research in America in 2017 from writing about budget cuts of $12.6bn cut to the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to the Environmental Protection Agency facing a budget cut of $528 million. The EPA and USA were reported banned from providing public updates via press releases or social media without prior screening and approval. Scientific research viability and liberty have suffered a hard knock. This is just the tip of the iceberg. And it’s not just America which faces such regressive political meddling in scientific research. It can indeed be seen everywhere across the world.

So, should we assume that Trump’s regressive stance is the start of science becoming political? I would urge everyone to think a few times over. Science has always been political.  Scientific American in its April 2017 guest blog clearly covers this and I quote “Society decides what kind of knowledge scientists are permitted to obtain and disseminate. The Vatican famously imprisoned Galileo and forced him to recant his scientific assertions that the Earth revolves around the Sun to avoid being burned at the stake. Under Stalin, the Soviet government supported the science of Lysenko, a pseudoscientist who rejected basic principles in biology, because his theories supported the principles of Marxism.  This gave rise to Lysenkoism, a term used to reference the manipulation of the scientific process to achieve ideological goals. This term seems more and more relevant today”.

There is a lot to think as far as decoupling of politics and scientific research goes and the time is indeed now.



Would Muni Bonds fund Solar Energy in India?

We will talk about ‘Muni’ Bonds today. Please be warned that this article does not pay homage to the popular Bollywood dance number in any manner.

According to a report published by Climate policy Initiative, the third part financing woes of solar rooftop developers can be resolved by issuing ‘Muni’ Bonds. Muni Bonds help municipal corporations to raise funds for infrastructure projects by issuing bonds to Institutional and public investors.

Very recently there was news that the Ahmedabad Municipal corporation has decided to issue ‘Green’ Bonds. The bond will be issued to raise funds to implement a bio-mining technique at the city’s landfill to reduce and recycle the waste being dumped there.

Basically, the Muni bond for solar rooftop projects is likely to fund and make popular the RESCO Model. Under this model,  a RESCO (renewable Energy Service Company )will buy assets (panels, collectors) and then monetize the generated energy by selling it to utilities/building owners. The bond will help the developer to access the debt capital market to buy said assets. More often than not such ‘tax free’ bonds are issued to banks, insurance companies and pension funds. Just last year, Pune Municipality Corporation issued Muni bonds to modernize its water supply system. The 10 year bond with a pricing at  7.59 per cent was oversubscribed 6 times and the Pune municipal corporation raised a cool Rs 200 Crores.

Municipal bonds are fairly popular in the US. The bonds have funded many public sector renewable energy projects.The default rate is rare if not zilch. Back home, SEBI has put in place safeguards to prevent defaults. Only those Municipal corporations which have a good investment credit rating  can issue bonds. Additionally, the corporation should not have defaulted on loans in the past one year. The revenue raised from the project will be kept in an escrow account which would then be regularly monitored by banks or financial institutions.

We hope that a muni bond to fund India’s rooftop solar dreams is issued soon.



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GOI to penalize violators who fail to comply with domestic content requirement norms in Solar PV projects

The government of India has warned developers against using Imported Solar modules in projects under MNRE Schemes/Programmes where Domestic Content Requirement (DCR) has been mandated (in a WTO compliant manner).

The notice published on MNRE’s website goes on to state that there were apprehensions that the DCR Policy maybe misused by way of mis-declaration and using imported modules.

The following actions will be taken by MNRE on an agency acting on behalf of mnre if violations take place :-

1) Filing of criminal case under IPC 420 and related sections

2) Blacklisting of developer for a period of 10 tears

3) Forfeiting of relevant bank guarantee

4) Disciplinary case against the officers of concerned CPSU/State Govt

5) Any other action, in addition those above

The notice can be accessed here.




Madras High Court postpones hearing on 70% safeguard duty to 2nd March, 2017

The Madras High Court has postponed the hearing on the recommendation of a 70 % safeguard duty on Chinese Solar module Imports to March 2, 2018 as per a report published by Mercom.

In a blog post published few days back, we had discussed the pros and cons of imposing a safeguard duty on Chinese Module imports.

Lets hope that the month of March brings greater clarity on this issue.










Waiver of transmission fees and losses spells relief for the Indian wind and solar sector

In an order issued on 13th February, the power ministry has decided to extend the waiver of inter-state transmission fees and losses incurred on transmission of electricity from wind and solar sources.

The waiver is applicable for 25 years for all those solar and wind projects which will be commissioned till 31st March, 2022.  Earlier, the waiver was to conclude in 2019.

The waiver is subjected to the following conditions –

  • The waiver is applicable for all those solar & wind projetcs that are entering into PPAs with any entity including DISCOMS
  • The waiver will be allowed to only those wind and solar projetcs which are awarded through competitive bidding process in accordance with guidelines issued by the Central Government

This move is probably the first positive sign for the renewable energy industry this year. The Budget did not hold any jackpots so as to speak for the renewable energy industry.

Also, the last few months have held a lot of uncertainty for the Solar Sector with the Director Safeguards imposing a 70 % tariff on Chinese modules with little clarity on the future of  imported modules lying at the ports for commissioned projects. The order was stayed by Madras High court but no decision has since been announced.  

With the rollback of duty on tempered glass and waiver of transmission fees and losses, one does wonder if the 70% safeguard duty on Chinese modules might just become a reality.


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Pic Credit : Fré Sonneveld





Electricity Demand & Supply Forecast for Tamil Nadu in 2026-27; An IEEFA Report


Amongst 29 states and 7 Union Territories in India, Tamil Nadu currently has the largest installed capacity of renewable Energy at 10.686 GW (as of 31st Dec, 2017) which is almost 16 % of the current renewable capacity of the country (Refer Fig 1.1).

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In the month of February this year, The Insititue of Energy Econimics & Financial Analaysis (IEEFA) published a report titled ‘Power-Industry Transition, Here and Now Wind and Solar Won’t Break the Grid: Nine Case Studies’. This report has been authored by Gerard Wynn, an energy consultant in UK. One of the Breakthrough Electricity Markets that has been showcased in this well-researched and comprehensive report is Tamil Nadu. According to the report –

Tamil Nadu ranks 9th on the list of global electricity markets that are leading the transition into wind and solar.

Below we have reproduced a Executive Summary from another IEEFA Case Study on Tamil Nadu published in the Report ‘Electricity Sector Transformation in India – A Case Study of Tamil Nadu’ authored by Mr. Tim Buckley and Kashish Shah.

  • Electricity production climbs to 164 terawatt-hours (TWh) by 2026/27, an increase of 60TWh or 57%.
  • IEEFA forecasts 67% of installed capacity and 56% of generation in Tamil Nadu will be derived from zero-emissions technologies by 2026/27. Distributed battery storage, demand response management, further diversification of generation capacity across fuel types, solar thermal power, pumped hydro storage (e.g. 500 megawatts (MW) at Kundah) and interstate grid connectivity will each play a key enabling role to accommodate a progressively higher market share of variable renewable energy sources.
  • Onshore and offshore wind capacity additions will provide an estimated 41% of the production uplift needed – As of March 2017, Tamil Nadu has 7.85 GW of wind operational. This makes Tamil Nadu one of the largest states in the world in terms of operational wind farms. August 2017 saw the finalization of a 500 MW wind tender by TANGEDCO at a near TN state record low tariff of Rs3.42/kWh. IEEFA models a near doubling to 15.0 GW of operational wind by 2026/27 across Tamil Nadu, including from repowering end-of-life projects to attain a tenfold uplift in capacity at existing facilities. Indian Electricity Sector Transformation – Tamil Nadu 3 IEEFA expects offshore wind to emerge as a new, cost competitive source of electricity generation system diversification for Tamil Nadu by 2025.
  • IEEFA forecasts that Tamil Nadu will see total solar installs increase sixfold by 2027 –    If Tamil Nadu can maintain its sector leadership in rooftop Solar, this would imply 1-2 GW of rooftop solar is a conservative target by 2026/27, requiring 100-200 MW annually over the coming decade. The addition of 10.3 GW of new utility-scale solar by 2026/27 looks entirely commercially feasible after the 1.5 GW solar auction of July 2017 at just Rs3.47/kWh. Please note that Maharashtra had overtaken Tamil Nadu in Rooftop Solar by the time this report was published.
  • TANGEDCO’s improving financial profile is forecast to move into a net profit for the first time in two decades within 2-3 years. Critical to any sustained momentum in the Indian electricity sector transformation is a solution to the financial distress of the states’ distribution companies. Ongoing losses at Tamil Nadu Generation and Distribution Corp. (TANGEDCO), have been a major constraint on electricity sector progress. TANGEDCO’s 2016/17 loss has been reduced by three quarters in just three years to Rs3,783 crores (US$582m). June 2017 saw the announcement that TANGEDCO was targeting a breakeven profit result for 2017/18. IEEFA views this as overly optimistic, but the path is set for better than breakeven results within the next few years.



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Tamil Nadu ranked 9th worldwide as an electricity market leading the transition to Wind and Solar

The IEEFA has published a report ranking Tamil Nadu as one of the 9 Electricity markets in the world leading the transition to wind and solar. Wind and solar accounted for 14.3% of Tamil Nadu’s total electricity generation in 2016-17.

At present, Tamil Nadu has a Renewable Energy Capacity of 10.686 GW and forms an impressive 16% of India’s Renewable Energy capacity followed by Karnataka.

In our next blog post, we will discuss a case-study published by IEEFA on Tamil Nadu’s transformation as an electricity market and its forecast for 2026-27.

Stay Tuned!