Solar developers are irked over what they allege is the reluctance of the state distribution company to grant them grid connectivity as readily as before. The Rajasthan Rajya Vidyut Prasaran Nigam (RVPN), however, denied this and said such decisions are determined by factors such as plant location and network capacity and proximity.
The standoff may threaten Rajasthan’s leadership in solar power generation and its target of achieving 25,000 MW of capacity to harness energy from the sun. The desert state gets the most solar radiation intensity in the country and had an installed capacity of 1,264.35 MW, or about 22% of the national total, as of March 3.
“Rajasthan’s solar programme began six years ago and we never had any problems until the attitude of RVPN suddenly changed three-four months ago,” said a leading developer who did not want to be identified.
A flashpoint was reached over a tender for 230 MW of capacity floated by NTPC. Bidders had to provide a guarantee from the discom that grid connectivity would be given promptly once the plant was ready.
Prospective bidders sought grid connectivity from RVPN within 13 months since NTPC solar projects had to be commissioned within that period. However, the discom refused to give such an assurance, saying the state allowed 24 months for large projects to be completed and it wanted a similar duration.
“Developers have to submit the connectivity letter from RVPN at the time of financial closure,” said Sunil Bansal, general secretary of the Rajasthan Solar Association, a group of developers. “Failure to submit it can be treated as failure to meet financial closure and the company’s bank guarantee could be encashed.”
Developers complained to chief minister Vasundhara Raje, energy minister Pushpinder Singh Ranawat and the Union Ministry for New and Renewable Energy. After several meetings, they were verbally assured that bid winners would be given grid connectivity within 15 days of setting up their plants.
“Rajasthan has become a somewhat difficult state for solar developers right now,” said a senior government official.
“Private developers who have been denied connectivity include Rays Power Infra for a 3 MW plant, SNCA Energy and Infrastructure for a 2 MW plant and Mahindra Solar One for 1 MW plant,” said the developer. “It is ridiculous that RVPN is being difficult even with 1 and 2 MW plants. Every substation has the capacity to absorb the little bit of extra power.”
However, Sanjay Malhotra, managing director of RVPN, brushed aside the developer’s accusations. “Giving connectivity depends on the location of the plant,” he said. “If the location already has a network, we give connectivity immediately. Only in exceptional cases, in places where the grid has not reached, does it take time to provide connectivity.”
“Problems sometimes arise when it is not clear where a solar plant is going to be set up,” said BK Dosi, chairman of the Rajasthan Renewable Energy Corporation. “If the capacity at a particular grid sub-station is lower than the installed capacity the developer is putting up, it is obviously not possible to promise connectivity. Even so, there is no application pending right now.”
Developers were not convinced. “We wrote to RVPN for a list of substations where power evacuation capacity was available,” said Rajeshwar Rajpurohit, secretary of the RSA. “But we have not received any reply. Uncertainty in connectivity will lead to more time being taken on projects as developers will not be able to plan for and locate their land parcels before an auction.”