The government might ask RBI to classify renewable energy projects under priority sector lending

The Ministry of New and Renewable Energy (MNRE) is expected to write to RBI seeking to bring renewable energy projects under the priority sector lending. The development comes to light post there is stress seen in the conventional power sector which is negatively affecting the renewable energy sector and questions are raised by renewable energy project developers over lack of funds by banks.

At recent stakeholders meet, the Power Minister R.K. Singh talked about the matter.

“We are committed to remove the obstacles in the financing of renewable energy projects. We have taken inputs from different stakeholders. One suggestion was that priority lending should be done for renewable energy projects and without any limit.”

Currently, the rooftop solar projects are under the priority sector lending category, but the funding quantum is only 15 crores.

In the current scenario, the Non-performing assets (NPAs) in the thermal power sector are impacting investments in the renewable energy projects, disrupting the lending situation for the power sector completely including renewable projects.

Along with this, RE developers also face financial drawback with added cost due to safeguard duty implementation in the country and conflicting to that competitive tariffs with each auction announced. Developers at the meeting also raised issues regarding payment delays by distribution companies and their demand for 2-3% rebates on delayed payments.

Parliamentary panel worries about the power sector post RBI’s revised framework on NPA’s

Reserve bank of India recently issued a revised framework for the resolution of stressed/non-performing assets. A Lok-Sabha committee was called to discuss the consequences of the framework on the electricity sector. The committee was of the opinion that the electricity sector has been forced towards Non-Performing Assets post the revised framework. As per the guidelines, one of the objectives of the revised framework is to ensure prompt action to provide relief to the stress in a borrower’s account as soon as the default takes place. However, the committee was of the opinion that a solution was indeed necessary but not at the cost of affecting the electricity sector majorly. A  37th report of the standing committee on energy on the subjects of stressed/Non Performing Assets in the electricity sector was presented post extensive discussion in order to resolve the issue of NPA in the electricity sector as per the extant RBI guidelines and other legal/ financial/ statutory provisions applicable at that time.

The Committee focussed on 34 coal-based thermal power plants which were categorized as ‘stressed’ due to issues such as:

  • Non-availability of Fuel:

– Cancellation of coal block.

– Projects set up without Linkage.

  • Lack of enough PPA by states
  • The inability of the Promoter to infuse the equity and working capital
  • Contractual/Tariff related disputes
  • Issues related to Banks/Financial Institutions (FIs).
  • Delay in project implementations leading to cost overrun.
  • Aggressive bidding by developers in PPA.

As per the Revised Framework, the extant instructions on resolution of stressed assets such as Framework for Revitalizing Distressed Assets, Corporate Debt Restructuring Scheme, Flexible Structuring of Existing Long Term Project Loans, Strategic Debt Restructuring Scheme (SDR), Change in Ownership outside SDR, and Scheme for Sustainable Structuring of Stressed Assets (S4A) were withdrawn. The Joint Lenders’ Forum (JLF) as an institutional mechanism for resolution of stressed accounts has also been discontinued. Now, all accounts, including such accounts where any of the schemes have been invoked but not yet implemented, shall be governed by the revised framework.

Although the new guidelines have been termed as ‘harmonized’ and ‘simplified’ generic framework, yet they are far from being so. Prior to these guidelines, an asset was classified as NPA if a loan or an advance where interest or installment of principal remains overdue for a period of 90 days in respect of term loan. Similarly, stressed assets were accounts where there has been a delay in payment of interest and/or payment as against the repayment schedule on account of the financial difficulties of the borrower. Under the previous framework, failure of an asset to serve its debt obligation within the prescribed time was taken to be indicative of a developing stress of potential NPA and consequently, corrective measures of various grades i.e. rectification, restructuring, and recovery were the options keeping in view the totality of the situation.

However, the new regime has let go with all such measures and any failure beyond the duration of SMA (Special Mention Accounts) is supposed to directly and immediately invoke the provisions of a resolution plan, making the revival extremely difficult. The committee, therefore, recommended that in the interest of the economy in general and the Electricity Sector in particular, the revised guidelines should be “harmonized and simplified” in the real sense.

 

Go to top