India’s Solar FIT (Feed-in-Tariff) policy has potential scope for expansion into SAARC

Bhutan & Nepal can be First beneficiaries as Hydropower & Solar make the perfect hybrid power trading portfolio for Himalayan region especially Bhutan and Nepal.

While, Hydropower offers great potential scope for expansion of the economic contribution to Bhutan, it will be critical that the fledging economy of Bhutan refrains from putting all its eggs into one basket in order to ensure a sustainable and balanced GDP growth.

Hydropower will continue to remain the main-stay in Bhutan’s economy over the next decade of growth of its GDP, with tourism forming the next big contributor. The expansion of Energy Co-operation portfolio to “Solar” with India has equally great potentials, with India poised to expand and double its National Solar Mission (NSM) from current levels of 20GW to a new level of 40-50GW by 2022 under a competitive FIT (Feed-in-Tariff)regime.

The scope of expansion of this FIT(Feed-in-Tariff) regime to Bhutan and Nepal is an area that can be quickly established with far reaching impact for these countries, whose private sector can benefit phenomenally from India’s own Solar expansion. Taking the caseof Bhutan as an example, the current India FIT (Feed-in-Tariff)has a discovered Tariff range of Rs 6.50 PerkWh – Rs 7 PerkWh as per the last NVVN (NTPC VidyutVypar Nigam Limited)tender and can be extended to Bhutan. NVVN is a subsidiary nodal company of India’s Power sector leader NTPC, with mandate for “Solar Power Portfolio (S P Po) ”expansion, absorption, purchase and trading as the same can be extended to a 25MW of Solar Power purchase from Bhutan over 1-year in capacity terms.

What this can do for Bhutanese economy and private sector in Bhutan is phenomenal with far reaching impact for an Indo-Bhutan Entrepreneurial Co-operation. If this 25MW proposed for 2015-16 execution with extension of India’s FIT (Feed-in-Tariff) via NVVN for cross border trade, and export of Solar from Bhutan to India is established – then this “25MW Bhutan Mini Solar Park” in Bhutan for exclusive export to India with dedicated metering could have 25 operators from the Bhutan’s private sector each owning 1MW of Solar.

These private sector operators can then have JVs with Indian Solar Power companies namely Solar PV module manufacturers, solar EPC companies etc. to deliver and develop this 25MW of Solar quickly in a years’ time in Bhutan and generate revenue thereof from Solar for Bhutan under the FIT extension regime. This will be another feather in the cap of the Indo-Bhutan joint bi-lateral energy co-operation post the success of Hydropower co-operation between our two nations. Further, such 25 operators with 1MW Solar power plant each will generate an employment of roughly 400-500 people viathese facilities of such a “Bhutan Mini Solar Park”.

We must not forget that the “1020 MW Tata Hydroelectric Project” employs 800+Bhutanese Engineers and technicians today. Comparing that with the proposed “Bhutan Mini Solar ” as a joint-sector bilateral model under India’s extended FIT regime, will result in generation of 40Million units of electricity for export to India at an average tariff of Rs.6.50 per KWH or Unit Solar generating a gross annual revenue of Rs.260 million and generate greater employment opportunities even with this small or mini 25MW capacity and that too in quick time of a year or so. Solar Power Project establishment costs are @ Rs7crore/MW at present.

It must not be forgotten here that compared to the 7-8years of gestation of hydropower projects, Solar power from 25MW-500MWcapacity can be built in 1-Year flat. Although, the efficiency of conversion from solar at 19% in light energy terms to electricity is far lower of that of Hydropower that has a conversion factor of 55-58% of hydro potential-kinetic energy combine to electricity for output of power generation. This not-withstanding, Solar Power Project (SPP)under an “Extended India FIT regime” will benefit the Indo-Bhutan bi-lateral co-operation far more than the hydropower from point view of Employment generation in Bhutan; Quicker revenue generation via time¬to-market due to a lower generation period; more environment friendly and involving far easier and less complicated construction techniques; offers greater scope of indigenization and private sector participation in Bhutan etc. to name a few which in my view will alter the economic scope of co-operation over the next decade in energy terms more towards Solar than even Hydropower in the Indo-Bhutan context. India’s own expansion of its National Solar Mission (NSM) is the perfect point of strategy for emulation for Bhutan.

However, the consumer of presently the higher solar tariff will not be there in Bhutan but is in India, where the “Solar Power” will be bundled with the cheaper Thermal Hydro-Nuclear combine–what we call in India as the Tariff Pooling-in. This helps as the relatively costlier Solar power encounters marginal tariff revision in real terms at the point of distribution to end-consumers when bundled with the conventional power.

NTPC with 43GW of installed capacity of conventional power with its Nodal company NVVN for bundling and delivery of Solar and other renewables and acting as a power trading and purchasing entity is very much in a position to affect cross-border absorption of Solar. Capacity expansion in Bhutan of even 1000MW of Solar will only marginally alter NTPC’s overall tariff under the present situation for mandatory Renewable Energy Portfolio (RPOo expansion planned by NTPC as a PSE (Public Sector Enterprise) and other large private operators in Reliance Power, Adani , Tata Power etc. . This can completely alter the Indo-Bhutan relationship and there-ofthe Indo-Nepal as well as “Solar” has great potential to cement the friendship further between our neighbors and India if the above REPA view is quickly acted upon by MNRE (Ministry of New & Renewable Energy), Government of India in particular, who must initiate this cross-border potential winner of the solar FIT (Feed-in-Tariff). At First suggestion by REPA recently Joint Secretary (Solar) at MNRE, TarunKapur felt that this was a potential expansion area and could be explored for implementation quickly. REPA will be soon representing the same with MNRE, Power Ministry and Hon. PM of India on the basis of this article for further movement in this direction.

(Prof. A .GopalakrishnanIyer, President, Renewable Energy Promotion Association, REPA; President, ENERTIA Foundation – Chairperson, Indo-Bhutan Entrepreneurs Alliance-IBEA)

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