The government recently amended the National Tariff Policy (NTP). Several reform measures have been announced in this change. NTP 2016 has increased focus on renewable energy, sourcing power through competitive bidding and the need for ‘reasonable rates’ (see box – Word Analysis of the NTP).
Co-generation from non-RE sources to attract RPO
Competitive bidding to be the norm for RE procurement (maximum 35% of installed capacity can be sourced from determined/preferential tariff)
Provisions for Renewable Generation Obligations (RGO) announced
Long term RPO to be announced by Ministry of Power
Vintage and technology multiplier allowed in REC
Inter-state transmission charges waived off for RE power
Solar RPO to be 8% by 2022 (excluding hydro power)
Calculation of Cross-subsidy methodology is suggested to be changed to make it less arbitrary
Before delving into the nitty-gritties of the NTP, it is worthwhile to step back and understand the importance of this document. The NTP says that CERC and SERCs “shall be guided” by the tariff policy. Thus, the NTP is in no way binding. In fact, from previous NTP’s several provisions remain only on paper. For example the NTP 2011 required that tariffs be within +-20% of average cost of supply. States have certainly not followed that.
Renewable Purchase Obligations:
The most significant change made is that the ambiguity on applicability of RPO on co-generation has been removed. The NTP 2016 says:
“Provided that cogeneration from sources other than renewable sources shall not be excluded from the applicability of RPOs.”
This change, once incorporated in the regulations of states, will have a significant impact on RPO applicability. Many CPPs are currently avoiding fulfilling renewable obligations due to the regulatory confusion resulting from orders from ApTel (Lloyds Metal) and Gujarat HC
Solar RPO will increase to 8% by 2022. This is a substantial increase as current solar RPO is below 1% in most states.
Another major change suggested in this clause is that solar RPO will not apply to power sourced from hydro power plants. The policy document states – “8% of total consumption of electricity, excluding hydro power, shall be from solar energy by March 2022”
This is a significant deviation from the Electricity Act 2003 (EA2003) and current RPO regulations, which require that RPO be calculated on ‘total consumption’. This change will open up major issues in RPO implementation – for example, can this change be done when it is contrary to the requirement of the EA2003, and why should similar exemption not be extended to non-solar RPO.
More clarity has been provided on Renewable Generation Obligation (RGO) provisions.
When RGO provisions were announced earlier, there were concerns of double-counting. However, the current provisions hint that RGO will not be incremental to RPO. The policy says:
“The renewable energy produced by each generator may be bundled with its thermal generation for the purpose of sale. In case an obligated entity procures this renewable power, then the SERCs will consider the obligated entity to have met the Renewable Purchase Obligation (RPO) to the extent of power bought from such renewable energy generating stations.
Thus, RGO merely appears to bring thermal generators into the mix and make it convenient to meet RPO. It will not result in expanding the requirement for RE overall.
Long term RPO to be declared by ministry of power in consultation with MNRE.
Provision for allowing vintage multiplier (to take care of cost changes for RE projects) and technology multiplier (to encourage specific technologies) has been incorporated.
Procurement of power:
The preferential tariff regime for RE power appears to be on its way out. The policy says:
“States shall endeavor to procure power from renewable energy sources through competitive bidding to keep the tariff low.
Further, an overall maximum of 35% of installed capacity only can be procured by the state from SERC determined tariff. This limit includes all generation, not just RE.
Transmission of power:
Inter-State transmission charges and losses for renewable power (solar/wind) have been exempted.
This is a welcome change, as it will encourage inter-state transaction of power. However, it seems that this exemption will apply only to wind and solar projects, and not other renewables like small hydro or biomass. The draft policy had suggested that such an exemption apply to power from all renewable energy sources.
Cross-subsidy and open access:
In calculating the cross-subsidy surcharge (CSS) a change in the methodology is proposed. At present, cross subsidy is calculated by using the cost of marginal power (top 5% power at the margin). Instead, now the weighted average cost of power including transmission and wheeling losses will be used.
Further, it is mandated that CSS cannot be more than 20% of the applicable tariff to the category of consumer seeking open access.
As we have shown in earlier articles, CSS determination is often arbitrary and with a purpose to discourage open access. One hopes that with the revised provisions the subjective aspects of CSS calculations will reduce. However, the policy still gives a wide leeway to SERC on this topic:
“Above formula may not work for all distribution licensees, particularly for those having power deficit, the State Regulatory Commissions, while keeping the overall objectives of the Electricity Act in view, may review and vary the same taking into consideration the different circumstances prevailing in the area of distribution licensee.”
Levy of “additional surcharge” has also been made more difficult as it needs “conclusive demonstration” of stranded capacity.
Most provisions regarding open access remain the same as in the 2011 policy document.
However, a relief has been provided by limiting temporary tariff to 125% of normal tariff category.
Some other important changes are:
Differential duties have been discouraged, particularly when states impose differential duties on captive generation.
Licensees have been given the option to charge lower tariffs than those determined by the SERC if competitive conditions so demand.
Provisions regarding micro-grids and protecting the investments made by micro-grid operators have been incorporated.
Smart meters have been mandated for consumers consuming 500 units by 2017 and 200 units by 2019.
Procurement of power from waste-to-energy plants has been made compulsory.
The changes proposed in the policy are encouraging and can have far-reaching impact, particularly on the RE sector. Provisions regarding RPO on co-gen, higher solar RPO, RGO and competitive bidding can radically change the demand for RE and the way new capacities are set up.
Rational and transparent cross-subsidy calculations can also help in encouraging open access to a large extent.
However, we remain cautious on these changes. The RE related changes will require that states be willing to implement these, and the wide leeway available to SERC on cross-subsidy means that only those states that are anyways in favour of encouraging open access will adopt them. It is unlikely to expand the open access market significantly.
An analysis of the frequency of words used in the NTP 2016 amendment vs the 2011 amendment throws a light on the changing priorities of the government:
The Policy can be accessed here.
Our previous blog on National Tariff Policy can be accessed here.