Industrial sector backs renewables

Last month's Energy Summit organised by the Confederation of Indian Industry (CII) in Madras, now Chennai, in India showed that the CII is firmly supporting further development of wind energy and that under the new government the national goals for renewables remain in place. Many presentations were made on innovative financing.

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The Indian government is recommending an increase in the country's renewable energy capacity to 4500 MW for the Ninth Plan period from 1997-2002. Wind energy is to contribute 2000 MW, including the existing 750 MW, and by 2010 India is looking to have installed 12,000 MW of wind power. These were the goals for wind outlined by the government at last month's Energy Summit organised by the Confederation of Indian Industry (CII) in Madras, now re-named Chennai, in Tamil Nadu. The event allotted a full day to renewables.

From the federal government's Ministry of Non Conventional Energy Sources (MNES), Ajit Gupta was as upbeat as ever in outlining its plans. "Wind is a temptation I am not able to avoid," he said, referring to "the dark horse that has emerged as the most promising." Wind's success he credited to India's energy policy and also "partly because of Denmark, who held our hands in the mid eighties." Gupta said the Ninth Plan goal for renewables of 4500 MW had been recommended by a working group of the federal planning commission. "To achieve this, wind energy is projected to contribute 2000 MW, while the rest would come from hydro (1000 MW), biomass generation (1000 MW) and solar (500 MW)," he said.

Gupta explained that over 7% of the increase in installed electricity capacity during India's Eighth Plan period (1992-1997) was from renewables. "Of the 18,027 MW added during the period, about 1400 MW was from renewable sources." He applauded the Indian wind sector for becoming the third largest producer of wind power in the world. "Today India's renewable energy programme is being talked about as the most aggressive and comprehensive in the world," he proudly pointed out. "We had a goal for wind of 500 MW which we are more than doubling by the end of the Eighth Plan." He assured that the government would continue to review incentives to promote the technology. "The 2000 MW we expect to add by 2002, will be 4% of the projected power capacity of India." Gupta said that by 2010, India could hope to have installed 12,000 MW of wind energy.

"We've had our share of problems that have led us to a far better understanding of the wind sector in helping us to deal with them better," continued Gupta. Wind demonstration programmes promoted by MNES were now being used as a conduit for opening new sites, he added. "Where we go, infrastructure follows." He regretted that the country's foremost wind site in terms of potential, Jogamatti in Karnataka, had seen no development because of the unsolved problem of forest clearance. An MNES proposal to set up a demonstration plant there was rejected by the state government. "Because there is no power evacuation, developers are hesitant to enter," he explained, referring to the lack of a developed grid.

On the thorny question of whether the government would allow sale of electricity generated to third parties, Gupta assured that the matter was being taken up with the states." I couldn't agree more that there should be a uniform policy. We have already stated this in our guidelines, which is an effort to bring an order into disorder." More broadly he also said legislation was being prepared to force the states to adopt a uniform policy on renewables. " We hope to table the legislation in parliament by the end of this year." On the MNES requirement for certification of wind turbines, he added that the deadline was already extended to December 31, 1996, to give manufacturers enough time.

Turning to local issues, Gupta said Tamil Nadu's potential wind power capacity was at least 5000 MW. "Most of the action is in the Palghat Pass. For some reason, not in Kayathar," he commented, adding that Kayathar could probably expect more action after the Coimbatore sites were exhausted. He stressed that the Perungudy site was limited. Gupta congratulated MP Wind Farms, a joint sector enterprise and urged other states to emulate Tamil Nadu's initiative with its energy service company. By March 31 this company had installed 30 wind turbines in a very short period. Summit participants were anxious to discuss the policy of the Tamil Nadu Electricity Board (TNEB) on reactive power, now being charged for at INR 0.10/kWh. Gupta replied: "What disturbs me is the recent attempt to cut off power and threats being made by the TNEB." This matter, he said, was already being taken up with the TNEB Board.

Serious summit

CII's energy summit is not new to Chennai. As the chairman of the conference, K.N. Shenoy, pointed out, last month's event was intended as a follow up to CII's 1994 summit." CII president, Shekhar Datta, put his organisation's role in a new perspective when he said, "CII is not just a pro-active forum. It has a responsible role in building a vibrant industrial society." That the CII meant serious business was evident by the attendance of Tamil Nadu's chief minister, M. Karunanidhi, at the summit's inauguration. While reaffirming his government's commitment to an investor friendly climate, he stated that the energy requirement of Tamil Nadu by 2002 would be 9020 MW. On steps to reduce line losses, he added that transmission and distribution losses in the state were 17%, well below the nation's average of 22%.

The total annual turnover in terms of goods and services in the renewable energy sector in India has already reached INR 15 billion. The conference's wind energy session, chaired by Madhu Sudan, the director of local wind company NEPC Micon, reiterated that it was time for the wind industry to lay its cards on the table and discuss realities. "The industry needs to get together to discuss how to continue a sustained growth in the years to come," he added.

Support for wind's growing importance as an industrial sector in India came from the director of Micon A/S, NEPC's Danish partner. Ole Bøgelund Nielsen pointed out that a large share of his company's growth was due to its collaboration with NEPC. Referring to the Micon 225 kW turbine as the "Volkswagen of the wind industry" he added that 800 of these units had been installed, adding: "One hundred and fifty 400 kW turbines have already been set up in India." He also revealed his company's plans for sale of a special low-cost crane for easy erection of wind turbines in remote areas and told the energy summit that Micon was currently working on a wind-diesel project. "There are many cities in India that will find this combination useful," he said.

The importance of preventative maintenance of wind turbines was stressed by Robert Clingensmith, managing director of Batliboi Foras Private Limited. "How many times have we heard in India that maintenance is last on the list?" he asked. This theme was followed by S.V. Kulkarni of the Indian division of Germany's leading wind company, Enercon. He stated that as installed capacity increases, so do problems associated with it. "For that, we need grid management." He said that line losses for Enercon had reduced from 12% to 3% due to its synchronised line generation instead of the traditional induction generators. He claimed that Enercon's gearless turbines had helped in saving transmission losses.

Financing models

Many presentations were made on innovative financing, including one by the Tata Finance Limited. It claimed to be the country's first specialist in financing renewable systems. Many pointed out that a stable investment climate for wind was needed to sustain the current development momentum and this called for a political commitment.

The Indian Renewable Energy Development Authority (IREDA), the major funding agency for renewables, was one of the major sponsors of the energy summit. It reported it had dispersed loans worth INR 70.5 million, but would also like to be involved in wind development through private financial institutions such as Tata. A plea for an IREDA office in Tamil Nadu was lodged by summit participants, but this was turned down as too costly. Efforts are being made, though, for IREDA to work through financial intermediaries.

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