Solar Energy : Why the sudden interest?
|Fig. 1 Solar Rooftop Target India (State-wise)|
The net installed Solar power capacity in the Country is at 5000 MW (Jan 2016) which is 1/4th the erstwhile target of National Solar mission by 2022. With the new target of 100 GW (1,00,000 MW) by 2022 these are certainly interesting times for Solar Power in India. What with a huge target of 40,000 MW for rooftop Solar with each State being given a target to achieve the same as seen above).
- Reduced cost of project execution : The EPC cost for Solar project was in the range of INR 8 Crores per MW till a few years back. Recently the EPC cost for the projects have come down to about INR 5.5 Crores per MW. This could be further brought down using imported equipment or even major equipment linked with credit. In this the major factor has been the price of PV modules which has witnessed a significant downtrend globally as can be seen in Fig. 1 below. Moreover the price of PV modules is expected to come down further towards the end of 2016 - primarily attributed to Chinese oversupply. Also with increasing competition the price of Inverters has also come down. With the introduction of innovative business models such as reduced pricing EPC model the EPC costs could be brought down further.
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Fig. 2 Global Price Trend in PV Cell prices
- Ease of Financing + Various Financing Options : There were limited financing options for Solar Projects. Recent spike in demand is also backed by the fact that several investors are looking at India as a Country for long-term Solar asset development. In addition to 100% BOO financing there are various other options including Leased model, reduced percentage (in the range of 5% to 8%) debt financing etc.
There are certain Government bodies which offer reduced interest rate loans for Solar Power Projects with holiday period and extended loan period for better returns. As Solar Projects are now covered under PSL i.e. Priority Sector lending there are relaxed norms for getting project loans for Solar for kW (household level) upto MW (commercial level).
- Increase in grid power prices : Grid power prices have been on the steady rise across India mainly for Industrial plants and Commercial facilities (see fig below). This has led to increased viability of Solar projects. Earlier Solar projects were viable for captive consumption for grid prices above INR 6.0 per kWh. However now the viability of Solar projects for captive consumption comes in for grid prices as low as INR 5.0 per kWh.
Going by the past trend and considering other major factors such as economic growth in the Country and the financial health of the DISCOMs the grid prices will continue to rise significantly in the foreseeable future., thereby consistently improving the commercial viability of Solar projects.
Fig. 3 Power Tariff in Major States of India
- Government support : The Government support for Solar Power Projects has increased in recent times owing to the revised ambitious targets. For eg. the 80% Accelerated Depreciation is a sought after benefit by businesses who set off their taxes in existing businesses by investing in Solar Projects. In fact many of the companies which were planning for Solar Projects on 3rd party funding are now looking at investing in these project themselves., primarily driven by the fact that equity is paid back in 2 years merely by considering 80% Accelerated Depreciation.
In addition to the same there are various tax benefits including 10-year tax holiday on revenues from Solar, Electricity Duty waiver, Discount on wheeling charges etc.
[Others are reading : Solar Energy Job and Business Opportunities]
- Renewable Purchase Obligation : The Solar RPO or the Renewable Purchase Obligation was introduced quite a while back but was not being taken seriously up until now. However with the new regime and the revised Solar target it is very much likely that the Renewable Purchase Obligation (RPO) would be strictly enforced with heavy penalties for non-compliance. Several reputed Companies, who were not earlier taking RPO seriously, are now looking to fulfill the same as can be seen in the REC market.
Sooner or later many of the Obligated Entities have realized that investing in a Solar Power Project is a better business decision than to buy RECs which are merely certificates to fulfill an obligation. If the Renewable Energy Bill becomes an Act then a non-complying entity could be penalized upto INR 1 Crore and also INR 1 Lakh per day for continued violation.
All along the articles have been focusing the green-energy aspect of a Solar Power Plant. Which is undoubtedly the best reason for going Solar. Additionally there is another important aspect which requires attention.
Water, another scarce natural resource is depleting much faster than one could imagine. While there is enough water on the planet, majority of it is not potable. Most of the conventional power plants use water from natural sources such as rivers and springs which are potable water. Due to this a vast majority of population across the Globe does not have access to clean water.
|Fig. 4 Water used by various types of Power Plants|
As one can see Solar PV is a clear winner in terms of water required to generate power - way ahead of conventional power plants. This is a significant differentiating factor considering the water conditions today. Minimal quantity (less than 1/2 litre per MWh) maybe required in case of some Solar Projects for cleaning of panels., however no water is required for operation of PV Solar power projects.
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