Government to float 12 GW solar energy scheme which may help domestic manufacturers

Amidst the US-India WTO dispute a new 12 GW energy scheme which has been deftly crafted to mandate local manufacturing without violating WTO’s trade rules, is in the final stage of approval and will help local industry in India sustain the blow of cheap imports.

The scheme worth INR-8,000 cr will be a significant boost for Indian manufacturers who are also waiting for the imposition of a safeguard duty on solar components. The scheme has already been cleared by the Expenditure Finance Committee which is a part of the Department of Expenditure in the finance industry.

The government can mandate the use of locally manufactured components as a part of the scheme since the power is for the government’s own consumption. The scheme will have an implementation period of four years by 2022, with a minimum manufacturing capacity of 3 GW of solar cells per year which is the current size of the domestic solar cell market in India.

In the recent developments of the safeguard case, the Directorate General of Trade Restrictions recently recommended up to 25% safeguard duty on imports from China and Malaysia for a period of two years.

Initially, in February 2013 the United States requested conversations with India concerning certain measures of India relating to domestic content requirements under National Solar Mission for solar cells and solar modules. The appellate body post listening to both parties plea gave the verdict that DCR measures were inconsistent with WTO non-discrimination obligations.

JNNSM Phase 2 Batch 1 bid results

We thank solar industry expert – Mr. Gopal Lal Somani, who has graciously provided his inputs and comments on the results of bidding process. 

The MNRE had authorized Solar Energy Corporation of India (SECI) to implement NSM Phase 2 program. In light of this, SECI auctioned 750 MW of solar energy projects and announced the financial bid results on 21st February 2014. In the subsequent paragraphs, we have covered these results in detail.

A total of 68 bids were received from 58 developers, covering 122 projects with a cumulative capacity of 2,170 MW. Of this, 36 projects with a capacity of 700 MW opted to bid under the Domestic Content Requirement (DCR) part A of the bidding process and the remaining 86 projects with a capacity of 1,470 MW opted for the open category Part B. Each part eventually got allocated an equal 375 MW capacity projects. Bids by PMP Auto Components, Zandu Realty, Golden Crystal and Green Energy Wind were cancelled as they did not meet the techno-commercial criteria. The bid by Moser Baer was cancelled as they could not provide bank guarantee.

Figure 1 : Total projects & cumulative capacity that participated in bidding of JNNSM Phase 2 Batch 1.

The financial bids followed a technical qualification round. Developers competed in the reverse-bid auction in two parts. Half the 750MW available had a mandatory domestic content requirement (DCR), and the other 375MW was left open with no domestic requirement.

The US filed a complaint to the World Trade Organisation earlier this month claiming that it should have equal access to the procurement round. First Solar had dominated the thin film market in Phase I Batch 1 & 2; courtesy a loop hole in previous JNNSM bids. The company which worked with the US Export-Import Bank on a number of projects, missed out its share in this bidding cycle. India in reply to allegations from US said – that First Solar had missed out “only based on the bid submitted by them. There are no political considerations. India cannot be blamed to be investment unfriendly”.

The reverse bid mechanism included bids for viable gap funding (VGF), a government capital subsidy to provide up to 30% of JNNSM project costs subject to maximum Rs. 250 lac / MW. There is a cap of up to 50MW per developer for funding applications.

The lowest bid under the DCR was for INR 13.5 million (US$0.2 million) by Swelect for 10MW and highest bid has been INR24.9 million (US$0.4 million) by IL&FS Renewables also for 10MW. Under the DCR, another 15 PPAs are to be signed for 21 projects, totalling 375MW.The lowest and highest VGF sought for projects outside the DCR were INR 1.7 million by Gujarat Power Corporation Limited (10 MW) and INR 24.9 million by Madhav Infra (10 MW) respectively. The highest bid under the non-DCR category is INR 24.5m (USD 0.4m) by Tata Power Solar. Under the non-DCR category, 15 project developers will be invited to sign power purchase agreements (PPAs) for 24 projects totalling 375 MW. Part A with the DCR oversubscribed twice whereas the non-DCR (open) part B four times over. The entire capacity of 750 MW will be converted into Letters of Intent (LOI) likely to be confirmed to respective winning bidders by end of February.

Figure 2 : Maximum-Minimum VGF sought in JNNSM Phase 2 Batch 1.

Average VGF (DCR) – 22.14 million INR, Average VGF (non-DCR) – 15.7 million INR

The average project size per developer would be around 25 MW and top solar potential states i.e. Gujarat and Rajasthan are the most preferred locations opted by most developers for implementation.

VGF payments are estimated for non-DCR projects to cost INR 97 billion (US$1.5 billion), whereas the DCR bids are estimated to cost much more at INR 160 billion (US$2.5 billion).

The difference in government funding of INR 63 billion (US$1 billion), has sparked questions from solar industry analysts who are of the view that this funding should have been extended as direct funding to encourage domestic manufacturing instead.

It is speculated that some of the winning firms who made aggressive bid would not sign the PPA and therefore the figures will not be final until PPAs are signed, which is expected to happen by March/April 2014.

21st February 2014 was a momentous day for solar in India as financial bids were opened at SECI.

It may also be noted that the tariff for the NSM Phase II batch I projects were fixed at Rs. 5.45/kWh while the bids were called for Viability Gap Funding (VGF) required by the developer.

Bidders enthusiasm and aggression in bidding perfectly matched with NSM Phase I Batch 1 and 2 success stories. This he infers is due to declining cost trends in EPC cost, more reliable players in the market, lenders confidence in funding on higher efficiencies/output, improved performance, improvised O&M (evidently observed in Phase I projects) and bankable PPA with SECI.

The lowest bid for VGF has been made by GPCL (Gujarat Power Corporation Ltd), a Gujarat State company; also the promoters of Gujarat Charanka Solar Park. This was the first solar park in the country with more than 500MW installed capacity. The VGF bid by GPCL was a jaw-dropping Rs. 17.5 lakhs/MW in the non-DCR category. The next bid in the non-DCR category was Rs. 73.29 lac /MW by Sun-Edison, a US based developer.

Amongst wide variance in bidding amounts from various bidders in Part A and Part B, there were some bids in Part A which matched with those of Part B, which is an indication that VGF can now be capped at INR 135 Lac/MW and going forward paves the way for subsequent bidding cycles conducted for entire capacities under VGF as it creates more jobs and thrives economic development of India.

This will also allow large scale solar energy deployment and boost local solar industry for sustainable development.   The success of this bidding has reconfirmed the interest of investors in solar projects and is a big booster from crawling solar market.

The heavy VGF discounting seen in Part A and Part B is almost unbelievable but allows Solar Power emerge  as a clear winner.

“Achieving status of financial closure by all winning bidders would be a world class result ever seen elsewhere in emerging markets.”

For a brief profile of Mr. Somani please visit page 4 of our NL Vol. 39

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