Interview with India's Minister for Non Conventional Energy, Professor P.J Kurien, a firm supporter of renewables, about the status and future of wind energy in India, pricing, implementation of guidelines, and plans for his home state of Kerala.

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plenty of room for growth

India's Minister for Non Conventional Energy, PROFESSOR P.J Kurien, is a firm supporter of renewables. Back in his home state of Kerala he has been a major force in the promotion of market incentives for wind energy. He spoke with Windpower Monthly's NEELAM MATHEWS about wind energy in the years ahead.

NEELAM MATHEWS: How do you view the status of wind in India?

P.J. Kurien: India today is the third largest producer of wind power in the world after USA and Germany. The total installed capacity has passed 500 MW, which, incidentally, was the revised goal set by the ministry for reaching by the end of the 8th Five Year Plan. So far 565 MW has been installed, out of which over 517 MW has been put up by the private sector. Installed capacity is likely to reach 750 MW by the end of March. This is still insignificant compared to the overall potential of 20,000 MW.

India is the fastest growing market, yet you have said that this growth is unimpressive. At what rate would you like to see the renewable grow? How will you achieve this?

Though we have achieved significant progress during the last three years, wind power is only a fraction of the total installed power generating capacity in the country. We have only exploited 3% of the total wind potential. We have identified more than 4000 MW potential. The wind resource assessment programme is being expanded to obtain a precise countrywide estimate of the total potential and identify new areas and sites. The SEB [State Electricity Boards] are creating the necessary infrastructure, such as sub-stations, transmission lines and so on for evacuation of power. I am confident that a capacity of 2000 MW will get installed by the turn of the century. Another 5000 MW should be feasible by 2010.

What are your plans for Kerala?

We have recently commissioned a demonstration wind power project of 2 MW at Kanjikode in Palkkad District. A joint sector company, KEDCO, has been set up -- together with the private sector, state government and IREDA [Indian Renewable Development Authority] -- for establishing wind energy estates in the state. The state government is inclined to offer facilities such as wheeling, banking and buy-back of electricity. A few sites have already been allotted for private sector projects. Ramakalmedu, with a wind speed of 30 kph, is the highest wind speed site so far identified in the country.

How will you implement your guidelines for wind? And what of the complaints about sales of second hand turbines from abroad?

The ministry has issued detailed guidelines for the benefit of SEBs, nodal agencies, manufacturers and developers to ensure an orderly growth. The guidelines mainly deal with proper siting, performance, operation and maintainance. The basic idea of the guidelines has generally been welcomed. I am aware of some attempts to import second hand machines for wind projects. This is rather unfortunate. In the context of the attractive fiscal benefits being provided by the government, I feel this trend will have to be curbed.

Are there any revised targets for the year 2000?

We envisaged a total wind power capacity of about 1200 MW by the end of the 8th Five Year Plan, by March 1997. As I stated, a capacity of 2000 MW by the year 2000 seems feasible.

You have talked about higher wind prices to encourage the private industry. But this is a state issue. How do you plan to bring this about?

The minstry has issued detailed guidelines to SEBs for adopting a uniform promotional policy for renewable energy projects which include a minimum buy-back rate of INR 2.25 for each kilowatt hour. Eleven states have announced policies based on the ministry's guidelines. The ministry has also suggested an annual escalation of 5% on the purchase price. Tamil Nadu is the first state which has agreed to the annual escalation of 5% on the basic price of INR 2.25/kWh. We expect other states soon to follow.

Is the tax depreciation clause likely to last until the turn of the century?

Continuation of this incentive will depend on the overall taxation policy of the government.

How would you like to see the wind energy sector grow?

We would like to see healthy and orderly growth through the deployment of the latest technology and large capacity machines. We have a good manufacturing base and in the years to come, India could easily emerge as the leading exporter of wind turbine equipment to other countries. I am happy to note that some buy-back arrangements by European manufacturers are planned already.

Do you envisage any problems with too fast a growth?

Our country is short of power and any generation by any source is welcome. Fast growth of this sector should not pose any problems.

Are states not yet involved showing an inclination to tap wind power?

So far the developments are mainly confined to Tamil Nadu, Gujarat and Andhra Pradesh. Karnataka, Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh and Kerala also have good potential and are likely to become major producers in the next few years.

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