Varied interests in the energy and power sector viz., CDM, carbon rating, Monitoring & Evaluation, Energy Management, Rural Development; Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy related matters; Demand Side Management (DSM), Energy Audits, Distributed Power Generation (Biomass, Wind,Solar and Small Hydro), Participatory Management.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009


Prices of electricity in short-term market are ruling at high levels!

28 Apr 2009, 0316 hrs IST, KG Narendranath, ET Bureau

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India, with its federal polity, is still in the throes of producing a consensus on how and how fast to reform the electricity sector that needs
Pramod Deo, Chief, CERC
to expand rapidly to meet the steeply rising energy demands of the fast-growing economy.

As an IAS officer, Pramod Deo had handled energy sector for more than 20 years. He has served as electricity regulator for the last nine years, building upon an apt academic background—a post graduate degree in physics, doctoral degree in infrastructure economics and post doctoral research in energy policy.

Recent actions of the CERC— especially the revision of regulations on Unscheduled Interchange (UI) and a statement of intent to control the prices of electricity in short-term market— have attracted the attention of sector watchers. Deo spoke about these and other measures of the regulator in an interview with KG Narendranath. Excerpts :

The criticism of the CERC's move to impose caps on the prices of short-term sale of electricity is that it would hamper the growth of the sector that anyway doesn't seem to attract investments of the kind being envisaged, that is, some Rs 3 lakh crore in the current Five-year Plan.

Short-term prices at which electricity is traded has risen sharply in recent months and are ruling at levels that are quite high. Although majority of the supplies are under long-term contracts, there is clearly a need to control the situation of steep increases in the short-term market prices.

Although the commission has the powers to impose price caps on inter-state sale of electricity, the purpose of imposition of price cap cannot be met without addressing the other crucial aspects such as review of the UI mechanism and the absence of a mechanism to regulate sale of 'free power' by state governments.

The UI mechanism, meant to ensure grid discipline, is being used by many state power utilities as a trading platform as you have the advantage of not paying trading charges. The movement of actual UI prices do impact the price of electricity being sold in the short-term. With 30% power deficit during peak hours in some states, some state utilities refuse to supply enough power to their own consumers and sell to the consumers in other states who are willing to pay more.

That is why we have reviewed the UI regulation in its entirety and come out with revised norms. There is also a need to devise a statutory mechanism for regulation of price of sale of 'free power' from hydro stations by the state governments to the distribution licensees of other states or trading licensees. If we decide to impose any cap on the price of electricity in short-term market, it would after a detailed study. Perhaps, the state regulatory commissions could impose suitable limits on the price at which the state utilities procure short-term power.

States can sell the 'free power' they are entitled to get from hydropower projects directly to the trader. Since there is no control on cost of this power and only the trade margin is controlled, this also gives room for short-term sale prices to rise. We have written to the power ministry, urging it to address this issue.

What exactly are you aiming at through the revised UI regulations?

We intend to send a clear signal to all concerned that UI is not a mechanism for trading of electricity. We hope the new regulations would encourage distribution utilities to meticulously plan procurement and desist from over-drawals from the Grid. Creation of new generation capacities is the solution to the shortage that exists, not excessive use of the UI facility. The restructured UI rate vector penalises utilities that habitually overdraw. Also, the new tighter frequency band would improve the quality of power being supplied.

There are 42 power trading licences, yet there are no signs of burgeoning power trading in the country.
We have raised the eligibility threshold for players in power trading business, including the existing ones, in order to ensure that only serious players have the licence. Number of categories of licensees has been reduced to 3 from 6 earlier. The revised regulations on inter-state trading of power notified in February 2009 also cover power imported from other countries for resale in the domestic market. The Supreme Court has upheld our ruling that the PTC can't charge more than Rs 4 per kilo-watt hour as trading margin for the power procured from Bhutan. Cross-border electricity sales are also well within the purview of CERC.

We have denounced the tendency among some states to block open access. The fundamental reason for the high cost of traded power (which is not conducive for the development of the power market) is the willingness of some buyers to pay high rates in the present deficit situation and therefore, the ultimate solution is to set up enough generation capacities.

Isn't there a need to establish separate feeders for major sectors like agriculture and essential services like railways and water supply to avoid load shedding at the hour of need?
As demand for power from agriculture sector is seasonal and can soar suddenly, separate feeders would facilitate better load management. States like Rajasthan, Gujarat and Andhra have set up separate feeders for agriculture and are able to control supply of electricity to the sector more effectively. Other states must follow suit.

Gopinath S
Chief Executive
nRG Consulting Services, Bangalore
+91 99161 29728

Thursday, April 16, 2009


Govt. of India looks to hybrid solar solutions to cut power costs

14 April 2009

The department of science and technology of the Government of India has constituted a consortium comprising eminent researchers and students from leading IITs and private industry to undertake research on low-cost solar energy.

A team of around 50 researchers selected from different IITs in the country are working on developing hybrid, off-grid solutions for reducing cost of electricity generated using solar energy.

The project, initiated almost six months ago, aims at bringing down electricity costs significantly and help supply power without transmission lines.

The researchers have already had four-five ''brainstorming'' sessions, T Ramasami, secretary in the department of science and technology, said.

''Fifty students from IITs is a pretty good number, and they are bright guys'', he said.

The research is being validated by the private sector supporting industries and some research institutions and the hybrid solutions being developed are expected to be viable, he said, adding, the project is slated to be completed latest by May.

Under the existing system, Ramasami said, Rs20 crore investment is needed to generate one megawatt of power, which is too high.

Researchers are evaluating a hybrid solution that is least dependent on transmission grid, and which can bring down to the cost of solar energy to Rs9 per kilowatt hour from about Rs12-14 kw/hour, with minimal investment, he said.

The project will reduce the cost of production of alternative energy to a significant level so as to promote the use of renewable energy and reduce dependency on known energy sources, especially fossil fuels.

Cheaper solar energy will benefit those regions in the country which do not have the transmission line.

Large scale use of solar energy, which is an abundant and clean form of energy, has been hampered by high costs of developing solar panels that contain photo voltaic cells necessary for converting the sun's energy into a usable form, such as electricity.

Though costs are decreasing, the decrease has not been enough to bring solar energy within the reach of the common people.

Gopinath S
Chief Executive
nRG Consulting Services, Bangalore
+91 99161 29728