India update: New committee for 7.5 GW PV project, Andhra Pradesh eyes 300 MW plant

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India’s ambitious solar targets rose a notch higher this week after plans for three large-scale projects in the country were moved encouragingly forward.

The largest –7.5 GW worth of solar PV projects planned for the northern state of Jammu and Kashmir and announced in March – has been granted a special coordination committee to move it forward over the next few years. India’s Ministry of New and Renewable Energy (MNRE) has organized the creation of a coordination committee to oversee the implementation of this bold project, which would become India’s second ‘Ultra Mega Solar power’ project, after the announcement last October of a 4 GW plant planned for the state of Rajasthan.

Meanwhile in the state of Andhra Pradesh, the chairman of government-backed power company NTPC has announced plans to develop a 300 MW solar PV plant in the Guntur district. The project will be opened up to a competitive bidding auction in order for the state to acquire the solar power at the lowest tariff possible, said NTPC chairman Arup Roy Choudhury.

One Indian state playing catch-up to many of its neighbors is Uttar Pradesh, which has been bedeviled by power shortages for some time. In an effort to mitigate the impact of electricity crises in the state, and to expedite its renewable power upgrades, Uttar Pradesh’s state cabinet has this week approved an amended to its Solar Energy Policy 2013, making the policy more investor-friendly in the hope of attracting greater private investment into its solar sector.

The chief change to the policy means it is now easier to install solar PV systems with a capacity of up to 1 MW as the state looks to boost its small- and medium-sized solar sectors. The threshold for bidding processes of plants of 5 MW and upwards will now be commissioned separately.

The amendment also states that Uttar Pradesh’s power utility, UP Power Corporation Ltd., will sign power purchase agreements (PPAs) of 12 years for all new solar projects initiated under the new policy, and the government would also foot the bill for any differences between weighted average tariff and the levelized tariff calculated in the course of the bidding.

Uttar Pradesh is targeting a relatively modest 500 MW of cumulative PV capacity installed by 2017. Across the country, that target is 22 GW by 2024. Estimates from the MNRE suggest that there is just over 2.5 GW of solar PV capacity installed currently, but the pipeline already contains in excess of 10 GW of additional capacity – much of which could come online before 2016.