CERC gives a positive nod to extend the validity on RECs

CERC recently announced in its order dated 15th May 2018 that the RECs will be valid till 30th October 2018, which were otherwise expired/likely to be expired between 1st April 2018 and 15th October 2018.

The commission declared this in accordance to its power under Regulation 15 of REC regulations.

The extension related dates are as below:

Duration

Status of RECs

Validity as per the order

1st April 2018 to 14th May 2018

Expired

Extended till 30th October 2018

15th May 2018 to 30th October 2018

Likely to be expired

Extended till 30th October 2018

The issues which were prevailing since early 2017 and saw petitions from various parties seems to have finally come to rest.

More than 10 lakh RECs (9,52,533 Solar RECs; 1,09,520 Non-Solar RECs) were being affected due to the pending petitions. Majority of these RECs were solar which saw a halt in trading for almost 11 months since 8th May 2017.

Since ApTel was in the reviewing process of the petitions, the commission could not take any action on the extension of REC validity before 31st March 2018.

ApTel in its judgment as on 12th March 2018 has disposed all the petitions and upheld the commission’s order dated 30th March 2017 to continue the REC Floor and Forbearance Price applicable from 1st April 2017 onwards.

 The Commission was of the view that there was a requirement to extend the validity since the appeals were dismissed by the ApTel and there was no stay.

Earlier, the commission extended the validity up to 31 st March 2018 which was expired between 1st October 2017 and 31st March 2018 based on Supreme Court’s order dated 29.09.2017 on seeking necessary direction for extension of the validity of RECs.

Based on the recent order, the expired RECs will be added back to the seller’s account which was then removed by NLDC till 31.03.2018.

As per the recent trade dated 25th April 2018 on IEX and PXIL after a halt of a year, the clearance was as below:

Trading portal

Solar

Non-solar

IEX

6,44,151

1,36,979

PXIL

2,30,967

50,564

ANALYSIS OF APTEL ORDER ON REC PRICING AND MULTIPLIER

Order in the case of REC pricing and vintage multiplier has now been uploaded on the ApTel’s website. Following is a quick summary of the same:
ApTel has rejected all prayers of the RE generators. Specifically, it has held:
–       Pricing: ApTel found no issues with the change in methodology by CERC when they used bid-discovered prices as against CERC determined generic tariffs.
The order states: “
“In view of the growing competition and induction of latest technologies, more and more generators are participating in the auctions/bids with considerable reduced cost of generation. Thus, the Central Commission in specifying REC prices, has shifted to bid discovered prices in place of earlier generic tariff fixed by it when the RE sector specially solar was in infancy stage.”
 
And
“We have carefully considered the contentions of all the parties and note that under the prevailing market scenario, the prices of RECs cannot be kept artificially high to burden the end consumers. Further, if the prices of RECs are kept high without aligning them with the market reality and current cost of electricity, the obligated entities may not purchase the RECs and try to fulfil their RPOs by other means.”
–       Vintage Multiplier – The ApTel has said that providing vintage multiplier is the “discretion” of CERC, and said that the CERC has provided “cogent reasoning” in its order, and further that the ApTel found “no unjustness in specifying the floor and forbearance prices of REC and discontinuation of the Vintage Multiplier”

–       In our opinion, the justification of price reduction is also to some extent based on factually incorrect premise. For example, the order says:
 
It is also noteworthy that sufficient time has been given to RE generators to sell their RECs at the power exchange but perhaps in anticipation of selling them at better prices has resulted into unsold REC inventory.”
 
            And further,
 
“Another important fact is that among the three routes available for RE generators, the REC capacity is dominated by RE generators operating under CGP and OA route rendering APPC route as the last choice”
 
We believe that this order will have a significant adverse impact on projects and investors that have invested in REC projects. An immediate impact will be that such project will have to bear heavy losses on the existing inventory of RECs – the losses will be particularly heavy for solar projects.
It also does not bode well for future investment in the REC mechanism, as falling RE prices are an irreversible trend. Does this mean that REC projects will have to bear losses of such reduction every year?

UPDATE ON HEARING ON PRICE AND TRADING OF SOLAR RECS IN APTEL

We attended the hearing at ApTel today. The court has dismissed all the petitions – implying that the CERC order remains as is. More details will be available once the final order is uploaded on the ApTel’s website (generally by end of day or tomorrow).
Since the stay on trading for Solar RECs was till the order of ApTel, it stands automatically vacated, and trading will resume from this month (unless a fresh stay is obtained by the generators).
We will provide a very detailed analysis of the order once it becomes available.

SUPREME COURT ORDERS STAY ON REC TRADING

After the Central Electricity Regulatory Commission’s (CERC) order dated 30th March 2017 on reduction of prices for RECs, many REC-generating companies had filed petitions stating that they had incurred a loss as vintage multiplier was not provided. They had first gone to Appellate Tribunal of Electricity (APTEL) to suggest a way to clear the existing REC stock. While the APTEL agreed to introduce a vintage multiplier, it refused to put a stay on the trading.  When the petition was taken to the supreme court, it not only put a stay on the trading, it has also stayed the new price regime which was introduced by the CERC.

 

The Business Standard article covering the same can be accessed here.

Our blog covering the reduction in the REC prices and our analysis of the same can be accessed here.

MPERC waives off past Solar RPO

In a recent order, MPERC has waived off past solar RPO for its Discom’s.

 

This comes despite ApTel’s judgment specifically disallowing waive-offs, and CAG’s remark about states not meeting RPO regulations.

 

Even more telling is the fact that India is playing a lead role at the ongoing international climate talks in Paris, and has been promoting its solar capacity additions as the most ambitious in the world.

 

However, MPERC’s decision goes contrary to all of the above. In its order, MPERC has said the following:

 

“The Commission also noted that respondents could not fulfill the Solar Renewable Purchase Obligations during the FY 2014-15 also. The Commission is monitoring the progress through the Suo-Motu petition no. 43/2015 regularly. The Commission also gone through the progress achieved by the respondents during the FY 2015-16 based on which, the Commission feels that the respondents may purchase more than the Solar Renewable Purchase Obligations fixed for the FY 2015-16. This may mitigate the default on the part of the respondents in fulfilling the statutory Solar Renewable Purchase Obligations in previous financial years. Under the above circumstances, the Commission is of the view that it would not be appropriate to impose any penalty at present on the respondents.” (emphasis supplied)

 

And further –

 

“The Commission is not in agreement with the views of the petitioner that the Solar Renewable Purchase Obligations during the FY 2015-16 should be cumulative as this will generate bad practices to accumulate the shortfall and to carry forward the targets.”

 

It is worthwhile to note that in its judgment on the same issue, dated 20/11/2013, MPERC had said the following:

 

“….Commission is constrained to express serious concern on the lack of effort on the part of the utilities in fulfilling their respective RPOs. More than four months of the current financial year still remain and the respondents are directed to pursue renewable energy procurement to the maximum so that the shortfall against the RPO is minimised. Continuous failure on the part of utilities in this regard cannot be allowed to go unpunished” (emphasis supplied)

 

In response the potential bad precedent, the Commission has instead decided to not impose past year obligations, and instead hopes that excess purchase of solar power in 2015 “may mitigate the default” of prior years.

 

REConnect Analysis:

 

This order sets a very bad precedent. Not only has MPERC clearly gone against the order of ApTel, it also goes against the government’s ambitious plans of developing solar energy and all the commitments that India is making at the international stage.

 

APTEL Directs DERC to adjust the PPAC (Hike in Tariff)

The Appellate Tribunal for Electricity (APTEL) in its judgment dated 25th May 2015 has directed the DERC (Delhi Electricity Regulatory Commission) to determine the Power Purchase Adjustment Cost (PPAC) for the 3rd and 4th quarter of the previous financial year (FY 14-15).

The Judgement came after Tata Power Delhi Distribution Ltd. Filed a petition in the tribunal requesting for directing the DERC to implement the PPAC for 3rd and 4th quarter of Financial Year 2014-15 immediately.

The tribunal after hearing both the parties, in its summary stated that:

“In the hierarchy of the Courts, there is a committing of discipline and such discipline should be maintained by all, otherwise that would lead to chaos in the whole Country particularly, in the Power Sector if such trend of slackness or arbitrariness is allowed to the State Commission like DERC in the present case”.

And the judgment:  

“We direct the Delhi Commission to determine the PPAC for the above said 3rd and 4th quarter within three weeks from today otherwise face the consequences and action will be taken by this Tribunal”.

This decision of APTEL has come as a relief for the distribution licensees, who have been facing financial crunches and revenue gaps. This move will result in increase in tariff hike in the state. The capital is likely to see tariff hike of 5% to 20%.

The order can be reached here.

Related article on Indian Express and NDTV

Analysis of Supreme Court Judgment on Applicability of Renewable Purchase Obligations

On May 13, 2015 the Supreme Court pronounced a landmark judgment on the applicability of Renewable Purchase Obligations (RPO) regulations. The case in question is Hindustan Zinc vs Rajasthan Electricity Regulatory Commission (RERC).

Background

In August 2012, the Rajasthan High Court had dismissed an appeal by Hindustan Zinc Ltd., Ambuja Cements Ltd., Grasim Industries Ltd. and 14 other companies that challenged RPO regulations enacted by the state regulator (Rajasthan Electricity Regulatory Commission; RERC).

The key points contested by captive (CPP) and open access (OA) users in the petition were:

  • RERC did not have the authority to pass the order of RPO and impose surcharge (penalty) as CPP and OA were completely de-licensed activities under the Electricity Act 2003 (EA 2003)
  • EA 2003 only allows RPO on the ‘total consumption in the area of the distribution licensee’ and therefore intends to apply RPO on distribution licensees only

The High Court rejected the petition stating:

  • The word ‘total consumption’ has been used in the EA 2003, and should be considered as total consumption in the area of distribution licensee in all modes. Total consumption has to be seen by consumers of distribution licensee, captive power plants and on supply through distribution licensee. It cannot be inferred by mention of area of distribution licensee that only consumers of the distribution licensee are included.
  • The objective behind imposition of RE obligation is in the greater public interest. The constitution casts duty on the Regulatory Commission to protect and improve the natural environment. This duty can be imposed on CPP and OA as well.

The above order of the Rajasthan High Court was challenged in the Supreme Court.

 

Order of the Supreme Court

In its order, the Supreme court dismissed the appeal of the petitioners, and upheld the RPO regulations made by RERC.

The court stated several important points in its judgment:

  • Imposing RPO is desirable in the larger public interest. The court observed that:

“…The Right to live with healthy life guaranteed under Article 21 of the Constitution of India, it has also been interpreted by this Court. It includes the Right to live in a pollution free environment and laid down the law in a catena of cases…”

and

“The impugned Regulations fall within the four corners of the Act of 2003 as well as Electricity Policy, 2005. The object of imposing RE Obligation is protection of environment and preventing pollution by utilising Renewable Energy Sources as much as possible in larger public interest.”

And further:

“The Coal dominates the Thermal Power Generation which results in Green House Gases resulting in global warming. The said facts were brought to our notice that the same would certainly justify the case of the RERC in framing the impugned Regulation to achieve the object of the Act and the Constitution by imposing RE obligation on the captive gencos.”

  • RPO applicability on captive and open access consumers is well within the ambit of the Electricity Act 2003.

“The High Court has considered the submissions of the appellants and has rightly rejected the same on the ground that the RE obligation imposed on the captive gencos under the impugned Regulations is neither ultra vires nor violative of the provisions of the Act of 2003 and cannot in any manner be regarded as a restriction on the fundamental rights guaranteed to the appellants under the Constitution.”

  • Cost of fulfilling the obligation cannot be held above the larger public interest.

“The purchase of nominal quantum of energy from renewable resources cannot adversely affect the cost effectiveness of the Captive Power Plant. Moreover, the object being reduction of pollution by promoting renewable source of energy, larger public interest must prevail over the interest of the industry….”

As a result of the above findings, the court dismissed the appeal.

“Upon consideration of the rival submissions by the well-reasoned order, the High Court has rightly upheld the validity of the impugned Regulation and we do not find any reason to interfere with the impugned judgment. All the appeals are dismissed as the same are devoid of merit.”

Implications of the order

This order is likely to have far-reaching implications on the enforcement of RPO regulations.

  • Stay by HC in various states may become redundant: Till date, the enforcement of RPO regulations has been lax due to various reasons. One of the reasons has been the stay granted by various High Courts like in the case of Gujarat (recently vacated), MP and Tamil Nadu, among others. With the Supreme Court now ruling in favour of imposition of RPO, the existing stay may become redundant.
  • Enable stronger enforcement: Further, the order is likely to provide support to the state electricity regulators to impose RPO regulations more forcefully and effectively.

Media coverage: Bloomberg & Business Standard.

For recent APTEL order on RPO click here.

ApTel directs SERCs to comply with RPO regulations

The Appelate Tribunal (ApTel) gave its judgment in a petition filed by various association asking the Aptel to give directions to the State Electricity Regulatory Commissions (SERCs) to comply with RPO regulations.

The order is likely to make the routine carry forward and waiver of RPO that has been observed in the last few years much more difficult.

The ApTel has observed that several SERCs are not complying with the RPO regulations. The order states:

“While we accept that a number of State Commissions have been monitoring the compliance of the RPO Regulations by the obligated entities as per their Regulations, in some States it is not being done regularly. We find that some State Commissions do not have compliance status even for FY 2012-13. Some State Commissions have not responded to the notice and have not filed any response. It is also borne out by submissions made by Ministry of New and Renewable Energy and the Central Commission that many obligated entities have not been fulfilling their RPOs and are also not resorting to purchase of REC which has been provided for in the Regulations as a valid instrument for fulfilling the RPO. Some of the State Commissions have been allowing carry forward of the RPO even though RECs are available, in violation of their own Regulations.”

 In the order, the ApTel gave several directions to the SERCs:

  • Directions have been given regarding the setting up of RPO and regular review of the same
  • Carry forward and review shall be done as per the RPO regulations. The order further states:

“If the Regulations recognise REC mechanism as a valid instrument to fulfill the RPO, the carry forward/review should be allowed strictly as per the provisions of the Regulations keeping in view of availability of REC”

and

“In case of default in fulfilling of RPO by obligated entity, the penal provision as provided for in the Regulations should be exercised”

  • Power to relax and remove difficult should be used judiciously. The order states:

“The provisions in Regulations like power to relax and power to remove difficulty should be exercised judiciously under the exceptional circumstances, as per law and should not be used routinely to defeat the object and purpose of the Regulations”

The ApTel order can be read here.

Analysis of Gujarat High Court judgment on co-generation and RPO

On 12th March, 2015, The Gujarat High Court gave its judgment in the case of Hindalco (Birla Copper), and others. This is a landmark judgment for two reasons:

–          It says that CPP and open access (OA) consumers are liable to fulfill RPO

–          It holds that the ApTel’s conclusion that co-generation power is different from renewable power as held in the case of Lloyds Metal & Energy prevails over the earlier decisions as the Lloyds Metal case we delivered by a full bench. It held that the pervious judgments on this matter (Century rayon, and various others) have “no significance and force of law in view of judgment dated 02.12.2013 rendered by the Full Bench of the APTEL”.

Applicability of RPO on CPP and OA:

The Gujarat HC has considered various aspects and submissions on this topic. It has held that captive generation, while de-licensed activity, does not make a CPP outside the preview of the Electricity Act.

It also held that RPO regulations, made with the intent of greater social good, are applicable on “total consumption by all modes”. The judgment says:

“The fact remains that the area would always be of distribution licensee as the transmission lines and the system is of distribution licensee and, therefore, the phrase ‘total consumption’ is seen by consumers of distribution licensee, captive power plants and on supply through distribution licensee. Thus, the total consumption in the area of distribution licensee would be total consumption in all modes, otherwise serious consequences would follow.”(emphasis added)

In the above findings, the Gujarat HC is in line with the judgment earlier of the Rajasthan HC. In fact, that judgment has been relied upon to a great degree.

 On co-generation 

On the question of co-generation power being exempt from RPO as per the ruling of ApTel, the court has observed the following:

“That contention of Mr. S.N.Soparkar that co- generation plant of petitioners of Special Civil Application No.791 of 2011 that it is based on fossil fuel and is non-conventional in view of decision in the case of Lloyds Metal & Energy Ltd. [supra] of APTEL, though appears to be attractive on first blush but non-conventional energy cannot be equated always with renewable source of energy.”

and

“….. co-generation provided under Section 86(1)(e) of the Act, 2003 is not co-generation stand alone, but it is co-generation and generation of electricity from renewable sources of energy. Thus, a source or input of energy may be non-conventional in the sense that CGP or co- generation following innovative or advanced technology, which may be eco-friendly and reducing carbon credit, but only on that ground is not not the same renewable source of energy like hydro, wind, solar, biomass, bagasse, etc. That non-conventional energy always and for all purposes cannot be equated with non-renewable sources of energy.” (emphasis added)

The HC further added that the most recent judgment of the ApTel on the issue of RPO applicability on co-gen power – in the case of Lloyds Metal and Energy – prevails as it was rendered by the full bench of the ApTel, and therefore:

“Thus, judgment dated 26.04.2010 in Century Rayon [supra] [Appeal No.57 of 209]; judgment dated 17.04.2013 in IA 262 of 2012 in RP (DFR) No.1311 of 2012 in Appeal NO.57 of 2009 filed by Gujarat Electricity Regulatory Commission; judgment dated 30.01.2013 in Appeal No.54 of 2012 filed by M/s. Emami Paper Mills; judgment dated 31.01.2013 in Appeal no.59 of 2012 filed by M/s. Vedanta Aluminium Ltd. [VA]; and judgment dated 10.04.2013 in Appeal NO.125 of 2012 filed by M/s. Hindalco Industries Limited, all delivered by the APTEL have no significance and force of law in view of judgment dated 02.12.2013 rendered by the Full Bench of the APTEL in Appeal No. 53 of 2012.” (emphasis added)

Impact of the judgment

 The judgment is likely to have significant impact in many ways. Some key impacts are:

–          RPO applicability on CPP and OA in Gujarat – As of now, the RPO regulations of Gujarat are not notified with respect to CPP and OA. This was due to the pending court case. Now that the judgment is delivered, these regulations are likely to be made applicable to CPP and OA.

–          While the petitioners have the option to approach the Supreme Court, in our opinion this is likely to have minimal impact. This is because in a very similar case of the judgment of the Rajasthan HC, the Supreme Court has refused to give a stay on the judgment.

–          The judgment with respect to RPO on co-generation power is also likely to have far-reaching impact, as it clearly establishes the view that RPO can be made applicable on co-generation power. The court has held that as per Sec 86(1)(e) of the Electricity Act, co-generation should not be considered “stand-alone” because only on the basis of being co-gen it is “not the same as renewable sources of energy”

Our previous blog post on Rajasthan HC order for RPO enforcement can be read here.

And a previous post on ApTel order for Lloyd metals & Energy (RPO Petition) can be read here.

KERC (Karnataka) Revises Wind Tariff dated 10.10.2013

The Karnataka Electricity Regulatory commission (KERC) has revised its wind tariff on 24th Feb 2015. The new tariff will replace the tariff calculated in KERC order dated 10th October 2013.

The new tariff has been calculated at Rs. 4.50 per unit, which was Rs 4.20 per unit calculated by KERC in its earlier  order dated 10th October 2013.

The new tariff will be applicable for the projects established during the control period of five years commencing from 10th October, 2013. For the projects which have already entered into PPAs with ESCOMs from 10th October, 2013 and up to the date of this Order, the tariff as determined in this Order will be applicable.

The revision in tariff has taken place after honorable APTEL (Appellate Tribunal for Electricity ) in a hearing of a petition filed by Indian Wind Turbine Manufacturers Association (IWPA) found some irregularities (mistakes) in tariff calculation and directed the commission to revise the tariff determined.

The commission earlier through notification invited comments and suggestion on the issues of revising tariff for wind energy, which after the hearing held on 7th January 2014 has been finalized.

The KERC Order can be accessed here.

Our Previous blog post on APTEL directing KERC can be read here.

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