India pushes back solar auction deadline for second time


India's state-managed Solar Energy Corp. has pushed back the deadline for a 750 MW solar auction for the second time, citing developers' fears that India's cash-strapped utility companies lack the funds to pay for the clean solar power they are producing.

The new deadline has been set back by almost a month to January 20, following the first delay that saw it move from November 29 to December 28. Since the turn of the year, however, Solar Energy Corp. has learned that developers have requested state assurances against payment defaults caused by cash-strapped distribution utilities unable to pay for the power they have pledged to purchase.

According to Bridge to India, a solar advisory based in New Delhi, there is a widespread belief among India’s solar developers that to run the auction now would be counter-productive for the industry, and could set back the progress achieved since the country's last solar auction in 2011, conducted by India’s National Solar Mission.

The proposed auction is for 750 MW of PV capacity, and will be the first of its kind to offer up to $300 million in grants that can be used to cover as much as 30% of the costs of project development. Developers are invited to submit bids in which they specify the amount of funds required for their project, with the lowest bidder winning out.

The deadline for completion of projects awarded state-funding is thought to be May 2015, said Bridge to India, even accounting for this latest delay in bidding and the auction itself, which typically follows 45 days after all bids have been received.

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