India To Miss 2022 Renewable Energy Target By 42%, Says CRISIL

CRISIL cites regulatory challenges and policy flip-flops, amid record-low renewable power tariffs, as reasons for the shortfall.

A solar panel sits atop the roof of a house in Kraska village, Rajasthan, India. (Photographer: Anindito Mukherjee/Bloomberg)
A solar panel sits atop the roof of a house in Kraska village, Rajasthan, India. (Photographer: Anindito Mukherjee/Bloomberg)

India is unlikely to produce 175 gigawatts of renewable energy by 2022. In fact, it will miss the target by 42 percent.

That’s according to a note by CRISIL Ltd., which cites regulatory challenges and policy flip-flops, amid record-low renewable power tariffs, as reasons for the shortfall.

The industry is also witnessing waning interest from developers for over a fiscal now.

Recently, at the UNGA global climate summit in New York on Sept. 23, Prime Minister Narendra Modi made a pledge to more than double India’s renewable energy target to 450 GW. On Sept. 16, Union Minister Harsh Vardhan said India is on track to achieve its renewable energy target by 2022, as set by the Modi government.

“Renewable energy capacity may increase by just 40 GW to 104 GW in 2022 from 64.4 GW in 2019, thanks to the lingering policy uncertainty and tariff glitches. That would be a good 42 percent short of the government's renewable energy target of 175 GW," the ratings and research gency said in the note.

According to the CRISIL note, 26 percent of the 64 GW renewable energy projects auctioned by the central and state governments have received no or lukewarm bids, while another 31 percent are facing delays in allocation after being tendered.

Thus, despite the increase in tendering volume, not only has allocation of renewable energy projects slowed down, but both undersubscriptions and cancellations of awarded tenders have also increased, CRISIL said.

The ratio of auctioned or awarded projects to tendered projects plunged to 34 in 2018 -19 from 77 over FY16 and FY17.

"The unstable policy environment poses big risks for the renewable energy targets. This is evident in the growing incoherence between the policy thrust on the one hand, and the actual action by implementation agencies on the other," it says.

The ongoing issue of tariff renegotiation in Andhra Pradesh has also acted as deterrent for most developers.

As of July 2019, Andhra Pradesh discoms alone owed Rs 2,600 crore to developers, part of which was due to ongoing tariff dispute and the resultant delays in payments. Such prolonged payment delays and disputes not only set a negative precedent, but also put at risk existing and planned investments, the agency said.

Similarly, Rajasthan's new draft solar and hybrid policy proposes an additional annual levy of Rs 2.5-5 lakh per MW on all projects that sell power to entities outside the state.

"Should this be implemented, it could be highly detrimental for the growth the sector, given that Rajasthan is one of the most sought-after states for solar power plants," CRISIL said.

A cap on tariffs is also emerging as a new challenge for developers.

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"Developers are also increasingly losing interest as central and state power discoms are increasingly lowering tariff caps, which is constraining project viability and resulting in renegotiation of tenders, where counterparties disagree on pricing.”

The Bhadla Solar Park in Rajasthan, which saw tariff bids of Rs 2.44 per unit in May 2017, has become a benchmark of discom expectations on tariff bids today, resulting in a solar tariff cap of Rs 2.5-2.6 per unit.

The Solar Corporation had terminated its 2,400 MW ISTS Tranche II scheme as the bid tariff of Rs 2.64 was higher than expected. In addition, another 1.7 GW of contracts were cancelled without renegotiations, citing high tariffs.

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Wind energy projects, meanwhile, are facing even greater turbulence as their viability has come down following the shift from fixed tariffs to competitive bids. An increase in capital costs, due to original equipment manufacturers no longer discounting prices of equipment, has also hurt the sector. "The result is, there is hardly any bidding for fresh wind energy projects today," CRISIL said.

The solar tariff cap fell to Rs 2.65 per unit in June from Rs 2.93 per unit in December 2018, while the wind tariff cap dropped to Rs 2.83 per unit in May 2019 from Rs 2.93 per unit in April 2018.

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"Yet, several factors affect viability of solar projects, such as land cost and technical factors like irradiation or wind density levels, apart from capital and funding costs," CRISIL said.

Crisil also expects the installed capacity to only increase gradually. "The renewable energy sector requires investments of Rs 2.6 lakh crore over the next five years. With interest from global investors remaining strong, funding is not a problem, provided government policy is consistent.”