REMCL has issued a tender on behalf of the Indian Railways for setting up of 1 GW ground-mounted solar plants on railway land along the railway tracks.
The Railway Energy Management Company Limited (REMCL) – a JV of the Ministry of Railways and RITES Ltd, has issued a tender on behalf of the Indian Railways for setting up of 1 GW ground-mounted solar power plants on railway land along the railway tracks pan India.
The last date for submission of responses to the Request for Qualification (RFQ) and the Request for Proposal (RfP) is September 2, 2020. The RFQ responses will be opened on the same date i.e. September 2, 2020. The date and time of opening of the RfP responses and the e-reverse auction will be intimated later.
A pre-bid meeting has been scheduled for July 30, 2020, to address the concerns raised by the prospective bidders.
To be eligible for participating in the bidding process, the bidders must have, over the last three financial years, have paid for, or received payments of at least one land-based solar PV project for a minimum value of 35 percent of the total quoted capacity in MW. And, the bidder must have received contractual payments in the previous three financial years and the current financial year up to the date of opening of tender, of at least 150 percent of the estimated cost for the total capacity quoted by the tenderer.
The scope of work for the selected project developers will broadly include the design, build, finance, operation, long– term maintenance and transfer of assets for solar PV project and the supply of electricity to Railways under long-term fixed-rate PPA. The developers will have a period of 420 days to complete the work on the project.
As per the tender, the bidders are required to submit one consolidated bid and indicate the project capacity offered and the name of the package (state-wise) for which it proposes to bid. The bidder may quote for one package or more than one package. However, the bidder has to quote for the complete project capacity for a package.
The Project should be Make in India compliant. The DCR requirement for Solar Panel shall be as defined in Cl. No. 1.89 of Definitions and for other items like Inverter/ Converter, cable, etc the Govt. of India guidelines issued by the Ministry of Commerce.
At the back end of April, RITES limited had issued a tender for setting up of 1 GW of land-based solar photovoltaic (PV) power projects on land owned by the Indian Railways. The scope of work for the selected bidders will include (but not be limited to) design, procurement, installation, supply, testing and commissioning of the grid-connected solar power projects on various zonal railways land across India. The developers will have a period of 390 days from the date of issuance of the letter of award to complete the work on the project.
Even though the fossil fuels sector has been completely ravaged by the coronavirus pandemic, the renewable energy sector has been more than chugging along. The results of a recently concluded mega solar tender in India provides further assurance on the continuing growth in the clean energy sector.
Adani Green Energy Limited (AGEL) and Azure Power have been declared to be the winners of the largest solar tender. This will result in the installation of 12 gigawatts (GW) of solar power generation and 3 GW per year solar manufacturing with an investment pegged at almost US $9 billion.
The tender, organized by the Solar Energy Corporation of India, was a first of its kind as it linked the installation of solar power plants with creating domestic solar manufacturing facilities.
To put this in perspective, India installed 7.3 GW in 2019.
Beyond increasing India’s solar generation assets, the tender also aims to jumpstart competitive solar manufacturing in India to reduce solar imports from China.
Solar Imports In India From China
Broadly speaking, the transition to solar power in India is aimed at three objectives — to reduce electricity costs, achieve a low carbon energy mix, and address its energy security by reducing energy imports.
On the last point there, strategically speaking, over-dependence on China for solar equipment is similar to the current case for oil with the Middle East, thereby subjecting the Indian economy to external geopolitical risks.
Recently there have also been several campaigns in India calling for a reduction in Chinese imports due to public outrage on the Indo-China border tensions.
For the past three financial years, FY17, FY18, and FY19, the total value (China and beyond) of the country’s solar imports was the US $3,196.5 million, $3,837.6 million, and $2,159.7 million, respectively. Within this, Chinese firms supplied about 80% of the solar cells and modules used in India.
In order to contain this, almost two years back, India imposed a 25% safeguard duty on solar imports from China and Malaysia. But the results have been a mixed bag. Some developers were reported to have started circumventing the duty by routing solar cells through Thailand and Vietnam.
Not only that, but a report by the Directorate General of Antidumping and Allied Duties, India observed that “unscrupulous elements are able to import the Chinese goods by circumventing the goods put under anti-dumping framework through misclassification of products.”
The search for loopholes will continue until there is a domestic competitive alternative to cheap imports from China.
Besides energy security, the indigenous manufacturing base in India would also help enforce performance contracts, build the foundations of domestic recycling industry, and not to forget, create jobs.
Tender Innovations by SECI
For quite some time now, the Solar Energy Corporation of India (on behalf of the Ministry of New and Renewable Energy) had been trying to push private sector investments to accelerate the manufacturing of solar PV in India. Its big idea was to bundle large scale solar power generation orders with the requirement to manufacture solar panels in the country.
The genesis of this interesting idea may have been in the bundling of solar and thermal power which had been done earlier to reduce the perceived costs of the former when it was more expensive. (On a tangent there, now that five years have zoomed by, there are talks of “reverse bundling.” That is bundling low-cost solar power with the more expensive coal power so that the latter can be sold. Ha!)
On the surface, combining solar generation and manufacturing seemed like a great idea. But the bid deadline had to be extended more than seven times with only one bidder interested.
You see, solar manufacturing businesses would require higher equity, while solar power generation projects are built using higher debt. So doing both is a difficult proposition for the project developers currently active in the market.
But with its eyes firmly on the target, SECI did not give up. To sweeten the deal and attract more participation, SECI made a number of changes in the initial bid design. Through a series of iterations several attractive options were added — a tariff of ₹2.93 for the generated power, Interstate transmission charges waivers, a greenshoe option, and others.
Will Solar Imports From China Fall?
After the tender results, in an interview with the Economic Times, Gautam Adani, Chairman of Adani Group, forecasted that the solar imports from China would fall and become negligible over the next 3-5 years. He added,
You have to realize that you need to pay some more price to build up the capacity. So as a country, we have to be prepared to pay a little more for self-reliance. How to pay? The government cannot give cash incentives, so there has to be policy intervention such as to safeguard duty, anti-dumping duty, customs duty.
– Gautam Adani, Chairman, Adani Group
However, he attributed the current additional costs as a short term burden to build self-reliance.
Interestingly, while AGEL has now expanded its operations and pipelines solar power generation assets to 15 GW, its sister company Adani Power Limited is the largest private thermal power producer in India with an installed capacity of 12.5 GW.
AGEL had also developed the then world’s largest single location, the 648 MW Kamuthi Solar Power Plant in Tamil Nadu, India.
So, how much can India expect to save by cutting down solar imports from China?
India has achieved about 35 GW of its current solar target of 100 GW by 2022 with a pipeline of 23.7 GW utility-scale projects under development and another 31.5 GW of tenders pending auction. In fact, as per several media reports, India has now pushed its aggregate renewable energy target to 450 GW by 2030!
Going by the current costs of utility-scale power plants, reducing 10 GW of solar module imports amounts to at least $2.2-2.5 billion worth of import savings. In comparison to this, the cost of putting up 1 GW per year of a solar manufacturing plant is expected to be about $800 million.
But that’s not all.
Some Other Benefits For India
With the amount of solar power planned in India, strategically the country needs some reasonable manufacturing capacity to avoid over-dependence on China for what is well on its way to becoming critical infrastructure.
In doing so, there would be benefits beyond the reliance and resilience resulting from domestic manufacturing capacity.
The 12 GW of solar power plants to be built under SECI’s tender alone would displace the carbon dioxide equivalent to the action of over 480 million trees during the project lifetime. This is equivalent to about a fifth of the carbon sink which India wants to create by increasing forest cover as part of its INDC.
AGEL also claims that its projects under the SECI’s tender will create 400,000 direct and indirect jobs.
It is pertinent to point that these manufacturing facilities may face risk due to fast changes in solar technology itself, which has forced several manufacturers in India as well as China to close their shops.
In the next leg, the government would probably want to see the current ‘pilot’ snowball into a larger more diversified manufacturing base.
Even back in 2019, as per a report from Mercom India, Waaree Energies (partner of Azure Power in SECI’s tender) and Adani were the leading module suppliers in terms of shipments in the country. Adani’s existing 1.3 GW of capacity in Gujarat (incidentally several consortiums are planning Lithium battery manufacturing facilities in Gujarat) will further consolidate the Group’s position as India’s largest solar manufacturing facility.
Over the mid-term, from a diversification point of view, it would be important to nurturing other facilities as well.
But for now, it is certainly a time for SECI and MNRE to breathe a sigh of relief. Though it has taken them two difficult years, they have been successful in kickstarting the solar manufacturing process in India, at a scale that can make a difference.
Adani Green Energy may look to replicate its recent solar collaboration with France’s Total after winning 8 gigawatts of projects in India this week.
Adani Green Energy, part of India’s Adani Group conglomerate, will build 8 gigawatts of large-scale solar capacity worth $6 billion in India over the next five years, after winning the world’s largest solar energy tender award this week.
The Solar Energy Corporation of India (SECI), a government body responsible for delivering India’s 100-gigawatt solar target for 2022, selected Adani Green in a tender designed to give a boost to India’s solar manufacturing sector. Adani Solar, the Adani Group’s separate PV manufacturing arm, will build an additional 2 gigawatts of domestic cell and module production capacity as part of the deal, to be up and running by 2022.
The first 2 gigawatts of the solar projects will be built by 2022, with three more 2-gigawatt chunks to be added in each of the subsequent three years, the developer said. India built around 9.5 gigawatts of new solar last year, according to Wood Mackenzie, making Adani’s projects a significant new tailwind for the overall market.
Adani’s solar plants will be built in multiple locations, but one of the developments will be a 2-gigawatt single-site array, tying Abu Dhabi’s Al Dhafra as the world’s largest announced solar project.
An Adani Green spokesperson told Greentech Media that the developer will finance each 2-gigawatt portion off its own balance sheet, raising project finance as construction begins. The company will then look to refinance once the plants are operational to lower the cost of capital. Some of the projects have already undergone two to three years of development work. the pricing of the winning projects is 2.92 rupees (3.9 cents) per kilowatt-hour.
Potential investment from France’s Total?
Earlier this year Adani Green spun several gigawatts of operational solar assets into a new company, with French energy major Total taking a 50 percent stake in the new venture for $510 million.
On a conference call this week, Adani Group chairman Gautam Adani said that Total is “very much interested” in expanding its partnership with Adani Green and that several other foreign investors are also in talks with the company.
“[Adani Green] is always looking for ways to further reduce its costs of capital and to work with other energy majors and traditional investors as a path to facilitating the company’s continued rapid growth,” the spokesperson told GTM in an email.
The Adani Group runs a diverse range of businesses from logistics and ports to aerospace and coal mining. The week’s win takes Adani Green’s pipeline of built, under-construction or contracted solar projects to 15 gigawatts. The developer, among India’s largest renewables players, is targeting 25 gigawatts of installed solar capacity by 2025.
Avoiding the financing pitfalls for Indian solar projects
Despite the government’s big ambitions, confidence in India’s solar market has been shaky in recent years. The government’s goal of 175 gigawatts of renewables by 2022, including 100 gigawatts of solar, is widely seen as unrealistic. India had around 36 gigawatts of installed solar at the end of 2019, according to Wood Mackenzie.
India has failed to build up a local PV manufacturing sector capable of competing with China. In the development world, the country’s complex patchwork of regional and national tenders, differing local content rules, and often unreliable off-takers have created instability and driven up the cost of finance.
As solar prices in Indian tenders fell to very low levels, financially struggling local power distribution companies, known as discoms, began pushing to renegotiate some older, higher-priced contracts — further denting investor confidence. And all that was happening before the coronavirus pandemic hit.
SECI’s latest tender award avoids some of these pitfalls, however. For starters, the Indian government recently said it would inject 900 billion rupees ($11.9 billion) of liquidity into the country’s discoms.
“Coronavirus will likely make the discoms’ financial health worse, but the impact will be reduced by the government infusing liquidity into the power sector,” said Rishab Shrestha, solar analyst at Wood Mackenzie Power & Renewables. “These are large projects with contracted revenues, and it’s difficult for me to imagine SECI backing out of contracts. Historically, it was the investors that were pessimistic rather than the government.”
“SECI enjoys the full support of its 100 percent owner, the government of India,” Adani Green’s spokesperson said, noting that rating firm Fitch has this week given SECI and state power company NTPC a clean bill of health.
Can India finally kick-start its solar manufacturing sector?
Bidders in the 8-gigawatt tender had to commit to building local solar manufacturing capacity. Whether Adani’s commitment gives the country a sustainable boost remains to be seen.
“SECI has made several attempts to kick-start the domestic manufacturing process through tenders but has failed to attract sufficient investors,” said WoodMac’s Shrestha. “The cost-competitiveness of domestic manufactured modules against Chinese imports was, and remains, the key hurdle.”
Despite this, Shrestha said the government has shown that it’s determined to establish a local renewables supply chain, even if that means higher costs for projects. “Focusing on localizing the supply chain also offers significant job opportunities for the growing Indian workforce,” added Shrestha.
Adani expects the manufacturing, construction and deployment of its full 8 gigawatts of solar to create 400,000 jobs.
If nothing else, the sheer size of Adani’s tender win this week gives it an advantage as it moves to scale up it’s local solar manufacturing.
“Logistics, utilities [and] bills of materials are driving the cost of Indian modules higher than that of China, so with this massive capacity, they’ll be able to leverage scale for more competitive pricing,” said Shrestha.
In A First, Indian Developer Seeks Buyers For 1 Gigawatt Of Solar Power Through Auction
We have covered numerous stories on tenders issued by the Solar Energy Corporation of India and several state governments in India to invite project developers to set up solar power projects at the cheapest tariff possible. In a first, an Indian project developer has issued a tender inviting consumers to purchase solar power.
India’s largest power generation company and government-owned NTPC Limited has issued a tender inviting consumers to purchase solar power. This is a first-of-its-kind tender as to date only consumers (or agencies representing consumers) have issued tenders inviting developers to set up projects. NTPC is reported to have around 1.8 gigawatts of renewable energy capacity operational in India.
NTPC has itself issued several tenders inviting developers to set up large-scale projects at solar power parks. Like its thermal power plants, NTPC looks for distribution utilities that are willing to buy solar power from these solar parks. Power is then sold at the tariff quoted by project developers to the distribution utilities, with NTPC playing little to no part in the transactions.
Neither the central government nor any of the state governments are believed to have issued any policies that allow or promote tenders like the one issued by NTPC. However, the company may have issued it for a couple of reasons.
We covered a story in 2017 regarding the troubles NTPC was having to find a buyer for 250 megawatts of solar power project that it had allocated to a subsidiary of Engie in India. The distribution utilities that were supposed to buy power from the project had refused to signed a PPA with the power plant claiming that they had already contracted sufficient solar power to meet their Renewable Purchase Obligation (RPO). Given the involvement of an international investor in this project the development would surely have caused an embarrassment to NTPC and it may be looking to avoid such situations in the future.
Second, the tender issued is meant only for government-owned and public sector companies. These companies have been mandated by the central government to procure renewable energy to meet RPO targets. This offers NTPC a huge market. According to a Bombay Stock Exchange portal, there are 257 operational public sector companies under the central government. Being a public sector company itself NTPC should not have any major problems in getting into long-term power supply contracts with other public sector companies. Already, companies and entities like Coal India, Indian Railways, and others have announced plans to set up large-scale solar power projects.
The tender could potentially prove highly beneficial to the PSU companies as well, especially those that have no captive generation of their own. Industries and commercial establishments in India are charged the highest electricity tariffs in India in a bid to subsidize the energy consumption in the agriculture sector. With solar power tariffs currently hovering around 2.50-2.70/kWh (3.59¢/kWh-3.88¢/kWh) the end-consumers could make a substantial saving in their energy bills, and NTPC could earn a huge margin on sales.