Solar Policy in Uttar Pradesh
India’s largest state in terms of population Uttar Pradesh, is set to come out with a 5 year solar policy to generate 1000 MW of solar energy. Accordingly, the Chief Secretary of the state has starting looking for empty land in villages where solar power ground mounted plants can be set up. The policy has been inspired from the solar policies being implemented in Gujarat and Rajasthan. Note Gujarat has been spectacularly successful in installing 100s of megawatts of solar power plants in the state through decent feed in tariff policies. However its recent attempt to set up a 1000 MW solar farm on its own is a huge overreach and would likely to result in major issues.
Solar Power in India is set to see spectacular growth fueled by Indian Government subsidy policy JNNSM among a host of other factors like massive energy deficiency, lack of national power grid connecting large parts of the country, rising carbon emissions, sharp increase in fossil fuel prices in coal. Solar Energy’s biggest advantage is that its costs are constantly falling compared to other energy forms where it is rising. Countries around the world have supported solar energy through various subsidies like Feed in Tariffs, Renewable Energy Certificates, Mandatory Renewable Energy production etc. Europe has been the biggest market and largest provider of subsidies for solar energy. Countries with massive solar markets like Germany, Italy, Spain have boosted solar through Feed in Tariffs which are higher electricity rates paid to electricity generated from solar energy. These countries have changed their policy to support rooftop solar and reduced the incentives for solar farms. These help in distributing the power generation, get common citizens involved and help in winning large-scale support.
Like the federal subsidy program JNNSM and state solar incentive schemes, UP is too focused on solar power plant while ignoring the potential of subsidizing rooftop solar plants on commercial and residential premises. Note most of the European countries have stopped subsidizing ground mounted solar plants because of numerous problems and are now only supporting distributed solar rooftop installations. Rather than copying from countries which have already seen through the solar learning curve, Uttar Pradesh is going down the wrong path. As it is, land acquisition is a big problem in the country with one of the highest population densities in the world. This might start a backlash against solar power which is the last thing a green fledgling industry needs.
Advantages of these solar farms over rooftop solar installations.
1) Lower Cost and Scale – The greater scale of these plants allows lower cost installations compared to smaller installations. The costs are reduced in permitting, maintenance as well.
2) Use of Disturbed Land – Solar Farms can be built on disturbed land like in Germany where they have been built on former airbases.
3) Utility Friendly – Large Solar Farms are controlled by utilities or IPPs while rooftop solar is generally on ownership basis, residential or commercial. This results in less pushback from utilities which generally control transmission and allow easier acceptance of solar energy.
1) Long Delays in Permitting, Environment Clearance, Land Siting – Large Solar Farms have to go through a myriad of regulations and clearances. There have also been instances of lawsuits against solar thermal and solar PV plants in California by wildlife and environmental groups as well as local Indian tribes.
2) Electricity Transmission Costs – Grid Connection leads to additional costs for solar farms while rooftop solar can use existing transmission infrastructure.
3) Less Grid Stability – A Large Part of Distributed Solar is consumed locally while Farms supply 100% to the grid. That makes managing the grid difficult when solar penetration increases.
Gujarat has leapfrogged far ahead of other Indian states in solar energy installations. This is despite the fact that Rajasthan had won the lion’s share of solar power plant under the federal program JNNSM. While Rajasthan has around 200 MW of solar power plants installed it is still far behind Gujarat in terms of installations at ~650 MW. Note these 2 states account for almost 85% of the solar power capacity in the country till date. This is inline with my earlier projection that Rajasthan and Gujarat would be the leader in solar power development in India. What is amazing about Gujarat’s achievement is that, it has installed the capacity through state initiative and funds without taking help from the Center While a number of other states in India too have started their own solar subsidy programs, they have been nowhere near as good, as transparent or successful as Gujarat.
THE department of additional sources of energy is set to facilitate setting up of solar power plants in villages. Chief Secretary has written letters to all DMs, asking them to identify pocket of lands in villages of their districts for setting up of solar power plants.
Further, for the first time, UP will have its own solar power policy (2012-17) that will lay down the guidelines for setting up of solar power plants by private parties and other organisations. The draft of the proposed policy is awaiting the Chief Secretary’s consent, which is likely by next week. The policy for harvesting solar power is based on the models of Gujarat and Rajasthan.
The UP New and Renewable Energy Development Agency (UPNEDA) has been entrusted the task of facilitating the setting up of solar power plants in the villages. UP has proposed to set up solar power plants to achieve 1,000 MW production till 2017.