Covid-hit 39 Gw renewable energy projects stare at delays, cancellations

There 7.3 Gw of wind power projects which are facing delays for reasons of lack of land availability, extension in financial closure and developers showing reluctance citing non-viability of the project
Lockdown to check Covid-19 spread, supply chain disruption of Chinese solar imports, delay in transmission connections, and reluctance of states to purchase renewable energy have derailed 39.4 gigawatt (Gw) of solar and wind projects. 

The Centre last week gave a blanket extension of three months to all under-construction renewable energy projects citing Covid lockdown. But several projects would still find it tough to commission, as the buyers are missing. 

The data compiled by the Central Electricity Authority (CEA) showed 20 Gw of solar projects have been granted extension due to Covid, while there are 8 Gw solar projects that do not have power purchase agreement (PPA) and 7 Gw wind power projects with no progress on ground. Business Standard has reviewed the data.

Mega-size solar power projects of leading players such as Adani Green Energy, ReNew Power, SoftBank Energy, Azure Power, ACME Solar, Mahindra Renewables, New York-based Eden Renewables, Spanish energy major Solarpack Corp Tecnologica SA, and Ayana Renewable Power could face significant delay and cost overruns due to the extension.  

There are 8 Gw of solar power projects tendered by the Solar Energy Corporation of India (SECI), for which the agency has not found any power buyer. SECI is an affiliate organisation under the Ministry of New and Renewable Energy for tendering renewable energy projects. This includes projects of ReNew Power, AMP Energy, Eden Energy Avikiran Surya, and Solarpack Corp, which quoted the lowest solar tariff of Rs 2.36 per unit for a 300-megawatt (Mw) project in June. 

Some of these projects that are delayed due to Covid have moved the Central Electricity Regulatory Commission for either cancellation or further extension in deadline. 

ACME Solar has sought CERC’s nod to cancel its 600-Mw solar power project in Rajasthan, won at a record low tariff of Rs 2.44 per unit. ReNew Power, Sprng Energy, and Myt­rah Energy have petitioned in the CERC for extension of rene­wable projects owing to delay due to Covid and lack of transmission infra to be built by the Power Grid Corporation of India.  

With several duties proposed on the import of Chinese solar cells and modules, it is feared that the cost of solar power could also go up in the medium term. In retaliation to the border stand-off with the Chinese troops, India is contemplating to slap safeguard duty and basic Customs duty on the import of solar equipment. Also, the Directorate General of Trade Remedies has suggested extension of safeguard duty levied on solar imports coming from China. 

ICRA has said the domestic solar capacity addition in 2020-21 was expected to fall to 5.5 Gw, given the “execution headwinds amid lockdown”. The report noted that the sector continues to remain plagued with delays in land acquisition, regulatory delays in tariff adoption, and others.

The story is grimmer in wind power where the progress on ground is dismal. PPA for wind power project capacity totalling 1.4 Gw has been unilaterally cancelled by the project developers.

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