• Must run status for renewable energy to be maintained in India even during lockdown period due to coronavirus pandemic, MNRE instructs discoms
  • It has also directed discoms to pay renewable energy generators on a regular basis as before
  • Ministry has extended deadline to solar cells and module manufacturers to enlist for ALMM list till September 2020

The Ministry of New and Renewable Energy (MNRE) in India has issued an office memorandum to stress the fact that must run status for renewable energy in the country remains unchanged during the COVID-19 lockdown period. The ministry’s directive comes in the wake of some electricity distribution companies (discoms) curtailing renewable energy.

The discoms were reportedly resorting to curtailment citing grid security reasons, but the ministry has slammed them through the memorandum saying grid safety is not a valid reason to curtail renewable energy. It states, “Since some of the discoms are still resorting to RE curtailment without any valid reason i.e. grid safety; it is once again reiterated that renewable energy remains ‘MUST RUN’ and any curtailment but for grid safety reason would amount to deemed generation.”

Discoms had been curtailing renewable energy generation terming it a force majeure condition while citing a Ministry of Power order that allows discoms to stop paying electricity generators  (moratorium period) due to the  COVID-19 situation. MNRE has also directed discoms to pay renewable energy generators on a regular basis as before the lockdown period.

India has been in a 21-day lockdown period due to coronavirus pandemic that was first into effect till April 14, 2020, but was extended until May 3.

Trying to offer some relief to the solar industry, the ministry has extended the deadline to enlist for Approved Models and Manufacturers of Solar Photovoltaic Modules (ALMM) List I for solar PV modules and List II for solar PV cells from March 31, 2020 to September 30, 2020. The final list would include Bureau of Indian Standards (BIS) certified solar PV cells and module manufacturers which would be the definitive source for all government projects/programs to source their solar PV cells and modules from.

India has said it will allow deadline extension to renewable energy projects under implementation due to the delays caused by the lockdown period and time required for remobilization of work force. MNRE has asked developers to invoke a force majeure clause for the delay in project commissioning in the current situation.

Ultra Mega RE Parks

MNRE staff itself has been working from home office and conducting meeting online owing to the lockdown rules in place. In one such virtual meeting, the Solar Energy Corporation of India (SECI) and National Thermal Power Corporation (NTPC) were announced to sign a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with the State Government of Rajasthan for 2 renewable energy parks of 5 GW each, marking the first phase of the government’s 25 GW Ultra Mega Renewable Energy Park proposed in the state’s Jaisalmer district.

Another similar 25 GW renewable energy project is also being planned for Khavada region of Gujarat (see India Planning Ultra Mega RE Parks With 50 GW Capacity).

Project delays expected

Mercom India Research meanwhile says there is no on ground activity for module production or for projects under construction at the time of lockdown, but developers have to bear the fixed cost of managing project sites. The onset of monsoon in India, around June, means construction activity would not start before the monsoon period is over.

While CRISIL expects 3 GW of PV capacity to be at risk of getting derailed due to COVID-19 impact on business, Wood Mackenzie expects almost the same amount of solar to be delayed.