Indexed renewable energy tariffs could save discoms up to ₹21,880 crore over five years: IEEFA

Our Bureau Hyderabad | Updated on October 22, 2020

An interim solution for discoms; accelerate closure of end-of-life coal plants

The inflation indexation of tariffs for future solar capacity could provide much-needed financial respite to the distressed power distribution sector and help India move away from coal-fired power, according to a report by the Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis (IEEFA) and the CEEW-Centre for Energy Finance (CEF).

Zero indexation tariffs have been the norm in India for many years, say co-authors CEEW-CEF Adviser Gagan Sidhu and IEEFA Research Analyst Kashish Shah.

Indian solar power tariffs hit a record low of ₹2.36 per unit in June 2020, with zero inflation indexation for 25 years. The state-owned power distribution companies have not been able to take full advantage of new, cheaper renewable energy due to two-part thermal contracts which command a fixed capacity charge even if no power is drawn.

Also read: What makes PowerGrid a good bet over the long term?

The note proposes that solar tariffs start at a very low ₹2/kWh for the first year of the 25-year PPA, rising at an indexed rate of 2.2 per cent of annual inflation for 15 years and then at a flat rate of zero per cent for the remaining life of the contract.

“The discoms face the twin challenges of a decline in electricity demand, exacerbated by the Covid-19 crisis, and expensive and under-utilised legacy thermal power contracts at a time when ambitious growth in new renewable energy capacity is being targeted,” says Sidhu.

“Our modelling shows that the discoms could save up to ₹21,880 crore over the next five-year period under a partially-indexed tariff structure, even with ongoing deflation of solar tariffs. This is compared with cash outflows resulting from incremental renewable capacity auctioned under a flat tariff regime.”

Flat solar tariffs would decline at just 2.5 per cent year-on-year for the next five years, reaching ₹2.13/kWh by 2025-26.

This is an interim solution to ease the unsustainable near-term financial pressure on discoms. The note points out that from a developer perspective, the proposed indexed tariff structure still results in a post-tax equity internal rate of return that is comparable to a flat tariff environment.

Also read: India gets set to transition to next phase of renewable power capacity, RE 3.0

Front-ending tariffs at a rate of ₹2.00/kWh would not only give the discoms short to medium-term relief, it would also provide them with an added incentive to increase purchasing of renewable energy instead of coal-fired power. By 2025-26, the flat solar tariffs are likely to decline below ₹2/kWh levels.

“The already low utilisation rates of coal-fired plants would come under further downward pressure while uptake of incremental renewable capacity would accelerate. This will help grow the current renewable energy capacity from 89 gigawatts (GW) now to achieve its target of 450GW by 2030,” the note stated.

Published on October 22, 2020

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