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Interaction | April 2015

CSP is more in the developmental stage

In an exclusive interaction, Tarun Kapoor, Joint Secretary, Ministry of New and Renewable Energy (MNRE), hints at a new deadline for CSP projects, which have been delayed for over four years now, and the future of the programme under JNNSM.

How was the journey of India´s Concentrated Solar Power (CSP) under the ambitious Jawaharlal Nehru National Solar Mission (JNNSM)?
As far as CSP is concerned, we have the proposals for the two pilot projects of 50 MW each. The Asian Development Bank (ADB), is likely to fund these projects. So at present, these are the only two CSP projects in the pipeline with us. Meanwhile, currently we are working out the modalities for the same. We will work out for some more projects also but it will depend on how the price behaves.

A total capacity of 500 MW worth of projects has been awarded. Four years have passed since Phase I and to date only five projects out of the nine were commissioned before the March 2014 deadline. What is the status?
In Phase- I, (out of) a total of 500 MW, the ministry has awarded 470 MW under one scheme and 30 MW on another scheme. But out of the 30 MW only 2 MW materialized and rest were cancelled. In the remaining 470 MW, 200 MW is already commissioned and the rest 270 MW is yet to be commissioned. Now the project developers have asked us for extension of time and we are working on it.

What is the new deadline given and why is there such a slow pace of development in CSP projects?
The developers have asked for two more years. So if we give them two more years the new deadline will be end of 2017.

We are yet to decide whether we should give them so much of time for the completion of Phase I project, which is still pending.

If you ask why the delay then I would say there were both some internal reasons and external reasons as well. First of all it was an entirely new project for the developers and they were not very sure about the Direct Normal Irradiance (DNI). After the project was commissioned, the DNI ground stations started their operations; they came to know that it was much lower than they thought.

So the developers thought that they have to redesign the project and they asked for more time. We gave them more time but some of the developers had their own issues as well. Like one of the developers account got frozen. So we decided to give them ten more months, the time got extended; now they have asked for two more years.

CSP targets have been reduced from 1,080 MW to 100 MW in 2015. Can you elaborate?
No, we have not reduced the target from 1,080 MW to 100 MW. It remains the same. You cannot expect only the central government to push all the projects; even the state governments and the private players should participate. The targets are set for everyone. For example, if we have a target of 20,000 MW for a project it doesn´t mean that only the Central government has to do it.

Everyone should participate. Here from government of India we will do only two pilots; the rest state governments, private sectors can set up. There can be captive generation or small plant which is directly from the consumers-all these are possible.

Is unclear future of government subsidies for CSP holding back private players participation?
CSP projects take time, they are expensive, but there are lots of advantages like storage capacity. In order to encourage the private players, state governments should do some projects on their own also. They should buy on their own; we can give them a better tariff.

So shall we consider that the government of India does not believe in CSP?
All over the world the total installed capacity of CSP has been very low, 4000 to 5000 MW. Meanwhile the installed capacity for PV is now somewhere around 1,70,000 MW all over the world. The technology is slow, so it is not that CSP is bad, it is just that PV prices have gone down. So CSP is more in the developmental stage and PV is more in a mature state. So whoever is setting up a CSP is making an investment for the future. The government is also willing to make investments in the future. We cannot compare PV with CSP.

The responsibility for implementation has also mostly been moved to the state and the technological ratio of CSP-PV goes down from 50:50 to about 30:70. Is that the reason for a major blow to CSP?
Just look at the quantity and don´t look at the percentage. Quantity wise earlier we spoke about 500 MW out of which still 270 MW has to be set up; if we talk about 1000 MW we are not going back on that. Quantities are there only thing where CSP takes more time. PV will go much faster because the price is reduced; we are going to hit gird parity, we cannot compare.

In ten years from now what is the future of CSP in our country?
Ten years from now, things will be quite different because it is quite possible that price of CSP may also come down, it might hold an advantage. I think the future is bright not only for power generation but also for (CSP as a) booster, for attaching with existing thermal plants.

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