The government of Andhra Pradesh today announced its solar policy. The policy does not specify any limit on the total capacity of solar power plants that can be put up under it. It also neither provides for a fixed feed-in tariff (like Gujarat did), nor does it make way for price discovery through a reverse bidding process (as in the case of the National Solar Mission).

However, the policy spells out the state’s stand on issues such as banking of power, wheeling and transmission charges, cross subsidy charges and open access.

In other words, a project developer may put up a project of any size in the State. He can either sell the power to the State’s electricity distribution company at the ‘average pooled purchase cost’ that is determined by the state electricity regulatory commission (which is today Rs 2 per unit), or can sell it to any other consumer directly, whether within or outside the State.

On banking of power (or, injecting power into the grid and drawing it back later), the policy says it allows 100 per cent banking. However, any energy injected into the grid will have to be drawn within that calendar year. No drawing of banked power will be allowed between February and June, and during the peak hours—6.30 pm to 10.30 pm. The developer will have to pay 2 per cent of energy as ‘banking charges’.

Further, if the energy is sold within Andhra Pradesh, the developer is incentivised with exemptions from wheeling and transmission charges and cross-subsidy charges, electricity duty and refund of VAT on inputs purchased for the project and the stamp duty on the registration of land for the project. However, for sales outside the state, wheeling and transmission charges, as determined by the state’s regulatory commission, applies.

A notable feature of the policy is that even the rooftop and off-grid plants will be eligible for the renewable energy certificates, under the ‘deemed injection’ clause.

To avail themselves of these incentives, project developers have to commission their projects by June 2014, whereupon they would get the incentives for seven years from the date of commissioning.

Industry wants details

The solar power industry finds the policy very friendly in terms of being facilitative, without casting a burden on the state government’s finances. Large cement plants, for instance, can discharge their renewable purchase obligations by becoming shareholders of solar power projects and buying the power. As such, there is likely to be considerable interest from the industry.

However, the Government has made public only the ‘abstract’ of the policy. The industry is keen on the details.

For instance, the technical and financial criteria are still awaited. The industry wants to be clear as to who is eligible to apply. (Uttar Pradesh, for example, said that only those who had done a project in India previously could apply.)

Finally, the industry would like grid-related codes and assurances of availability of the grid. How much of renewable power can the grid take? At which point will the metering happen? What is the policy relating to forecasting and scheduling?

These are some issues that need to be cleared out before people begin to put down money in solar projects in the State.

"While the policy states that one of its objectives is to "promote investments for setting up manufacturing facilities in the state", the policy does not specify any domestic content requirement. This could make Andhra pradesh a very attractive market for the foreign PV module manufacturers who are backed by attractive financing options," says Madhavan Nampoothiri, Founder and Director of RESolve Energy Consultants.

ramesh.m@thehindu.co.in

(This article was published on September 27, 2012)
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