SunEdison setback may delay Modi's 'ultra mega' solar drive in India

Wed Apr 6, 2016 7:39pm EDT
 
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By Krishna N. Das

MUMBAI (Reuters) - The likely collapse of SunEdison Inc's SUNE.N solar project in India, the first of 32 planned "ultra mega" complexes, could delay Prime Minister Narendra Modi's goal to increase renewable energy fivefold by several years and probably cost consumers more.

As the U.S. solar giant fights to stave off bankruptcy, the 500 megawatt project in Andhra Pradesh state it won last November lies idle with ground yet to be broken. The other projects are still to be bid on.

It's doubtful any rival will pick up the project at the aggressive power pricing promised by SunEdison, which beat out 29 other bidders with a record-low tariff of 4.63 rupees (7 U.S. cents) per kilowatt-hour.

That will force Indian officials to tighten auction rules to ensure that only serious, bankable bidders show up, industry sources said. India plans to auction more of the "ultra mega" projects - those which generate at least 500 MW - in the current fiscal year through to March 2017.

"There is always a tradeoff," Upendra Tripathy, secretary at the Ministry of New and Renewable Energy, told Reuters of the renewable energy auctions.

"There can be a relaxed condition so that more people can participate and there is another where you can make sure fly-by-night operators can't come in. It's an ongoing process and we are open to suggestions."

Tightening auction rules could slow the pace at which projects are awarded and built, pushing back Modi's goal of expanding solar capacity to 100 gigawatts by 2020 to the middle of the decade, say officials and industry players.

Tripathy, however, said India will for now stick to its goal, set by Modi soon after taking office in 2014, and that it has planned for SunEdison-like bumps in the road with a strong project pipeline.   Continued...

 
Workers clean photovoltaic panels inside a solar power plant in Gujarat, India, in this July 2, 2015 file photo. REUTERS/Amit Dave