Clean Power Solar PV in India

Published on October 29th, 2014 | by Guest Contributor


Solar PV In India Is Cheaper Than Importing Coal From Australia

October 29th, 2014 by  


The results of India’s latest solar auction are in, and it is bad news for developers of Australian coal projects – solar PV is cheaper for Indian users than the electricity price needed to pay for imports of coal from Australia.

A tender for 500MW of solar capacity in the sunny, south-eastern state of Andhra Pradesh, resulted in First Solar submitting the cheapest bids in an auction that was oversubscribed by more than double – 63 bids, totalling 1291MW in proposed solar developments.

Solar PV in IndiaFirst Solar submitted bids of just over 8 cents US per kilowatt-hour – $0.086/kW/h for 40MW and $US0.087/kWh for another 40MW. In local currency terms the bids came in at INR5.25/kWh and INR5.35. That is significant, because it is below the price required to make coal imports economically viable.

All other bids – developers had to bid the tariff rate for power generated for the first year of the proposed plants operation – ranged from $SU0.092 to $US0.132, with projects ranging in size from 3MW to the upper limit of 100MW.

These remarkably low bids illustrate how quickly large-scale solar is coming down the cost curve in India – in February last year, a Rajasthani solar auction produced a lowest bid equivalent to A11.6c/kWh.

They also confirm that generating power from a large-scale solar plant is now cheaper, in India, than power from new-build coal, particularly those that rely on imported coal.

According to a research note from the Institute of Energy Economics and Financial Analysis (IEEFA), a PPA of between A10c/kWh and A11c/kWh would be required to build a new coal-fired generation plant using imported coal.

“We estimate that a PPA of Rs5.4-5.70/kWh would be required, plus price indexation of 4%pa to justify the construction of … a US$4bn coal-fired power project,” IEEFA says.

“This is double the last reported average sales price of electricity across India of Rs3/kWh and treble the domestic coal-fired power PPA signed over recent years.

Basically, says IEEFA, the required wholesale power price for imported coal is prohibitive relative to domestic coal or renewable energy.

“Wind, solar and hydro facilities can be built faster and / or at lower PPAs. Additionally, the use of renewable energy incorporates a zero fuel cost, such that there is an inbuilt deflationary driver – i.e. zero indexation.

“Given the recent drive by the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) to prioritise the sustained reduction in inflation, renewables support a series of GoI / RBI targets. Importing thermal coal achieves none of these goals, and more likely contradicts them.”

IEEFA analyst Tim Buckley said that, while the imported coal price may come down, lowering the generation price to around 9c/kWh, there was no way developers could bank on prices staying that low, considering the uncertainty surrounding thermal coal.

“(India’s) proposed new coal generation plan is showing signs of significant financial stress and is likely to deliver far lower than expected levels of new supply over the next five years.”

This is not great news for Australia, or more particularly Queensland, which is betting on India’s appetite for imported coal to fund the development of the state’s massive Carmichael coal deposit and the related expansion of the nearby Abbot Point coal port.

The increasingly shaky state of this Queensland coal export plan has been exposed more and more lately, with major international banks officially distancing themselves from the development projects, and signalling they would not back them financially, due to the attached risks – both financial and environmental.

India, meanwhile, is increasingly turning to solar, with government plans to foster development of some of the world’s largest solar PV parks across the country, totaling as much as 20 gigawatts of capacity, about 10 times what India has built to date.

The Indian government also revealed details this month of an auction of 1GW of solar projects in Andhra Pradesh that will form the first part of a national 15GW roll out of PV between now and 2019. In March, the Solar Energy Corporation of India (SEIC) announced plans to build a 1GW solar factory in Andhra Pradesh.

Source: RenewEconomy. Reprinted with permission.

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  • Ronald Brakels

    Australian coal can’t compete with solar power in Australia. Just to be clear I am talking out rooftop solar rather than utility scale solar farms, but the effect is the same.

  • Hayden

    I have read that India is to spend $20 billion each year for at least the next 5 years on solar,, under the solar loving new Prime Minister Modi.

  • Others

    Its true, with lot of sunshine, Solar power will be cheaper than Australian Coal.

    China has built a lot of solar capacity because of the rising price of Australian Coal.

    Time for India to replicate the same.

  • dxing

    Solar will get even cheaper as technology progresses, What will Abbot do, now that he bet the whole bank on Fossils? Australian temperatures were the hottest ever over the last year and for September, a whopping 2.03 C above normal!

  • David in Bushwick

    No nation would import their water. Importing fuel to keep the lights on and factories running should be just as unthinkable and renewable energy keeps money at home.

    • Larmion

      Singapore imports much of its water. But anyway, your comparison is unfair: water is a low value product with a high cost of transportation, while energy carriers tend to be easy to ship and with a considerable value per unit of mass.

      If you consider the idea of importing energy ‘unthinkable’, you also by definition consider renewable energy unthinkable. Most countries could theoretically keep the lights on using only native resources using uranium and fossil fuels (few countries have neither fossil fuels nor uranium).

      On the other hand, very few indeed could keep the lights on using renewables if they refused to import (and export) energy – renewables are a good source of baseload if you can spread them across a wide area (think 1000 miles and further). At those distances, the dictum that ‘the wind always blows somewhere and the sun always shines somewhere’ holds true. But at those distances, you’ll also be crossing borders.

      So in short, the flows in energy will only increase in the future. Perhaps they’ll shift from coal and oil to electrons, but that’s just shipping the same thing in different form.

      • lee colleton

        This analogy is further undermined by the fact that many nations do import crops which they would be unable to grow themselves due to lack of fresh water and arable land created by the water cycle. Importing crops is essentially importing water.

        India imports hydro-electricity from Bhutan which has the capacity to produce it: Once the water arrives in India’s territory, the land is too flat for hydro-power.

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