PLF of India’s thermal projects has been consistently falling. It decreased from 78.9 % in 2007-08 to 62% in 2015-16.

PLF of India’s thermal projects has been consistently falling. It decreased from 78.9 % in 2007-08 to 62% in 2015-16.

New Delhi: Given the technical limitations of operating below the threshold level, India’s coal fuelled power projects that are facing low capacity utilization due to muted demand are trying to prevent damage to the equipment while running them.

With these plants not designed to operate below the plant load factor (PLF) of 55%, they are now evaluating radical measures such as being retrofitted, which may require an investment of around Rs1 crore per mega watt (MW).

With India’s plan of adding 175 gigawatts (GW) of clean energy by 2022 as part of its commitments to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change adopted by 195 countries in Paris in December 2015, the PLF of these stations will further get impacted.

PLF is a measure of the output of a power plant, with a higher PLF indicating more output at a lower cost of electricity generation. Of India’s installed capacity of 329,231MW, 59% or 194,553MW is fuelled by coal as it is the mainstay of the country’s electricity mix.

Such a plan assumes importance as the PLF of India’s thermal projects has been consistently falling. It decreased from 78.9 % in 2007-08 to 62% in 2015-16.

“It’s an exciting transition happening in the power industry... Now with increased renewable to the grid, it will be very interesting to see how we are able to manage the grid balance going forward. Especially with the climate accord it’s interesting to see how we maintain the efficiency of the power plants, upgrade the existing power plants and make them flexible to operate with the renewable regime,” said Prashant Jain, head, power generation services at Siemens Ltd.

India, the world’s third largest energy consumer after the US and China, has announced its intent to stay the course even as the US has announced its withdrawal from the Paris climate deal.

“The power plants usually are designed for base load. And when you design a base load power plant the moment you start operating it in a flexible regime it has an impact on its performance immediately. So if you start and stop your turbine more often, then it’s going to have a direct impact on its life,” said Jain.

According to the Central Electricity Authority (CEA), India’s apex power sector planning body, the PLF for 2012-13, 2013-14, 2014-15 and 2015-16 was 69.93% ,65.55%, 64.46% and 62.28%, respectively.

“I believe that it is (falling PLFs impacting plant’s health) is a serious problem. A lot of power plant owners are considering either to upgrade, modernize or go to the government because it needs policy support,” Jain said.

Analysts expect the PLF to fall further.

“Ind-Ra expects domestic coal consumption growth in India to remain tepid on account of an expectation of a 2% fall in the FY18 plant load factor (PLF) of coal-based plants,” India Ratings and Research wrote in a 13 July report.

Aware of the impending crisis, the draft National Electricity Plan prepared by the CEA has recommended, “Retrofitting of the existing thermal plants for increased ramping capacity and backing down capacity must be explored in view of integration of RES (renewable energy sources).”

This comes at a time when the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) government is trying to generate fresh demand for electricity in the country—the lack of which is weighing down the entire power sector—by improving energy access.

“To accommodate high quantum of RES into the grid, thermal plants are likely to run at low PLF in future. Many plants may get partial/nil schedule of generation. The market mechanism through regulatory intervention needs to be evolved so that the owners of thermal plants are able to recoup the investment and, at the same time, customers are not unnecessarily burdened with high tariff,” the draft National Electricity Plan added

First Published: Tue, Aug 08 2017. 11 24 AM IST
Read more: Falling capacity utilization forces India’s coal...

NTPC's first 28MWh auction for storage based solar plant in Andaman & Nicobar island has failed to generate suitable response from vendors forcing the company to extend the bid submission date twice in the last one month.

The post NTPC extends bid date for Andaman solar plants to August 24 on poor response appeared first on The Financial Express.

Read more: NTPC extends bid date for Andaman solar plants...

doklam standoff, india solar sector, solar sector india, china, sikkim standoff, doklam issue, doklam, china news, china latest news, china india standoff, indo china, indo china relation, india defence, china pla, people liberation party china, china news, china latest news, india, financial express Those in the industry feel border tensions will not affect the sector. (Reuters)

As reports of the border stand-off between India and China continue to hog headlines, one of the concerns raised is whether this would have a bearing on the solar sector in India because local project developers are dependent on solar cells and modules imported from China.

Of the $2.34 billion worth of solar equipment brought into India in 2015-16, a staggering $1.96 billion (83.61 per cent) worth of solar cells and modules were produced in China, Energy Minister Piyush Goyal told Parliament in November 2016. India imported solar and photovoltaic cells worth about $826 million from China during the April-September period of 2016-17.

Those in the industry feel border tensions will not affect the sector. “I don’t think the current political situation will have an impact on the trade because whatever China exports, Indian trade is just a fraction of that,” Indrajeet Dudile, co-founder and director, Sunshot Technologies, told indiaclimatedialogue.net. “Our trade with China will not be more than $60 billion vis-a-vis Chinese net exports, which is more than $2.5 trillion.”

“Even if the tension is there, I don’t foresee any issues till the time the Government of India takes a stand that imports from China will be stopped for all the sectors. It cannot be specific to renewables,” said an official at the Ministry of New and Renewable Energy (MNRE).

“The rise in the cost of solar is a phenomenon that needs to be seen separately than that of the tension between India and China. An increase in prices will be due to the demand and supply considerations. It should not be linked to any kind of dispute between India and China. If the market signals are such that the demand for solar is increasing to the extent that it has an impact on the cost of solar, then this is a generic phenomena, which is not specific to the India-China dispute.”

Sunil Jain, CEO and Executive Director, Hero Future Energies, believes that irrespective of the tensions, imports had to be impacted since the Indian government is already working on an anti-dumping duty petition filed by domestic manufacturers.

“China already has anti-dumping measures across Europe and the US. So, this had to come logically in India and it will definitely impact the imports, but I believe the impact will be partial as our back-end for domestic manufacturing is not ready yet; we are still importing wafers and cells from China,” he noted

“India has around 4 GW of solar panel assembly lines and around 1 GW of cell lines. With new technology, some of these cell lines would need an upgrade. At best, we can stop import of panels, but wafers and cells still have to be imported, and if China increases the prices of wafers and cells, are we ready for it?… Backward integration of domestic manufacturing has to be in place, if we are serious about curbing imports from China,” he added.

“Till the time there is no specific issue of this nature that India should stop buying from China, it will not impact imports because it is not specific to solar modules. There are many other things which are being imported from China, including for the mainstream power sector and machinery,” the MNRE official explained.

The last two years have witnessed an impressive growth of the solar sector. While India added 4 GW of solar power capacity in 2016, the generation capacity of solar rose from 2,650 MW on May 26, 2014, to 10,000 MW on March 10, 2017. However, in order to achieve its longer-term goal of 100 GW of solar PV capacity by 2022, India will have to bolster its domestic manufacturing capacity, which currently stands at around 6.5 GW for modules and 1.6 GW for cells, as per data from MNRE.

“In the absence of manufacturing, India will need to import $42 billion of solar equipment by 2030, corresponding to 100 GW of installed capacity,” warned a report by KPMG.

The MNRE official said that the capacity of solar modules in India is 8,000 MW, while for cells it is 1,500 MW and this is not sufficient to achieve the government’s aims.

“Some amount of import will be there because we have set ambitious targets, and therefore, we will have to import till the time we have manufacturing capabilities,” he said.

Read more: Tensions between India, China over Doklam...

At the recent annual general meeting of shareholders of Reliance industries Ltd (RIL), at the very fag end of his speech enumerating the big strides made by his bread and-butter businesses — refinery and petrochemicals — and holding forth a little longer on Reliance Jio, Mukesh Ambani revealed his next dream project.

"It (RIL) will be known in the coming decade as an enterprise with lakhs of partners, supporting the small and young entrepreneurs and an enabler of a large ecosystem of entrepreneurs in India," he told shareholders at the 40th AGM. He did not elaborate much.

As you read this, an ecosystem for entrepreneurs is taking shape on the outskirts of Mumbai, and the coming months might see it gain scale. In the 100-acre reliance corporate park, the nerve centre of the Rs 3,39,000 crore enterprise, a non-descript, two-storey structure called the MAB, or the Main Administrative Building, is home to a batch of 20 entrepreneurs testing products and honing business plans. The accelerator for the startups is under the auspices of GenNext hub.

Much of what RIL is betting on are businesses that have linkages with the telecom venture, but there are a few that may well open new frontiers. In less than four years, the 51 startups that have gone through GenNext have raised about Rs 285 crore; about Rs 100 crore was raised at the time of entering GenNext, which is a benchmark for investors.

In recent times, RIL has picked up stakes in six startups. In the public domain are investments it made in Netradyne, Videonetics and Edcast, startups in segments as diverse as artificial intelligence and video analytics. the gen next project, though, goes way beyond just investing.

To be sure, RIL is not the only Indian company to nurture startups. Mahindra & Mahindra, Marico, the Tata group are also mentoring young ventures. banks such as Icici bank, Kotak bank, Yes bank and even a few NBFCs such as edelweiss are mentoring fintech startups. what makes RIL stand apart is the sheer breadth of entrepreneurship it is backing.

In a recent interaction, a chairman of a leading conglomerate told this writer why corporates are backing startups. He explained that this is the fourth phase of entrepreneurship; it started with Edison inventing the bulb in his garage in the late 1800s. From those days, entrepreneurship and innovation have picked up speed. companies born in garages like Hewlett-Packard spawned innovation back in the 1930s. Entrepreneurs were soon courted by venture capital firms, giving birth to companies like Google, Amazon and Facebook. the startup culture has now entered the fourth phase, where big corporates are facilitating their domain knowledge to nurture startups. Abroad, this trend is called the corporate garage.

Lightbulb Moments
At RIL, Amey Mashelkar, 38, is leading the initiative to identify the best of the startups via GenNext Hub. His father, the renowned academic Raghunath A Mashelkar, is spearheading innovation among employees (see Battleground of Ideas). The presence of the next-gen Mashekar sits well with the Ambani scions, Akash and Isha, on the board of Reliance Jio. Akash, who is chief of strategy at Reliance Jio, will get actively involved in the coming months, as the Reliance GenNext Hub brings in ventures that have synergies with the Reliance Jio platform.

At RIL, Amey Mashelkar, 38, is leading the initiative to identify the best of the startups via GenNext Ventures.
This is GenNext's third year, in which it has received almost 1,000 applications from entrepreneurs keen to board the accelerator. The proposals have come even from non-metros like Kochi and Jaipur, other than the big cities.

This year's statement of purpose by the chairman of India's largest private-sector firm by revenues on partnering entrepreneurs follows up on his September 2016 address. Ambani had then declared that RIL will have a Rs 5,000 crore corpus to invest in startups. The plan to play mentor and accelerator may also include setting up camps at Palo Alto, the world's startup capital, and in Tel Aviv in Israel, a hotbed for innovation.

One of the mentors for GenNext's chosen startups is serial entrepreneur Ravi Gururaj, his latest venture being QikPod, an ecommerce locker startup. "RIL is pushing on many fronts, Jio being the biggest new addition, and I think they need to be very nimble too. After all, despite being big, they do have competitors."

What Gururaj is saying is that RIL will need to find innovative solutions to offer customers; mentoring startups is their way to experiment by building an ecosystem of tech ventures.

For entrepreneurs, feeding off the Jio ecosystem makes immense sense. With 100 million customers, RIL's telecom megaproject makes for an ideal testing ground and marketplace. "They (RIL) are pushing the barriers on the size of the device, reach, footprint, bandwidth. All of these can be catalysts for startup growth," says Gururaj. "RIL is a large industrial group and any opportunity to engage with them through an organised programme is a great opportunity. Otherwise, you can get lost in the mail."

Mashelkar, while low-profile, becomes fervent when he rattles off the number of startups that have gone through the MAB. "This is the place to be in," he says. "If any of the startups grows into a unicorn, it will give us much satisfaction, and be a feather in our cap." RIL, which straddles sectors, recognises the need to keep innovating. "All large companies have realised that no one company can do it on its own. And that's because of the pace of innovation. By the time they do it on their own, it may be too late," explains Gururaj.

Most of the startups come early in their life to GenNext Hub, getting seed-funded or Series A-funded while at the accelerator. Nobody is facilitating an accelerator like us, says Mashelkar, taking pains to describe how startups with nothing but bright ideas and a beta product have scaled up under GenNext Hub.

Jio and Reliance Retail will help startups test the proof of concept. Take, for instance, HeadSpin, a startup that helps developers test an app in different mobile networks and devices. Mashelkar says Jio enables that to happen, and app developers love this tool because they can test remotely in a 100-device lab set up in the MAB. Streaming platform Hotstar, for one, is trying out their offerings through this lab.

Investments in these startups are strategic rather than for just financial gains. Mashelkar says: "Picking up stakes is not our core objective; our objective is to foster the ecosystem." Investing, of course, comes easy for RIL, a company with a net profit of `31,425 crore in 2016-17. "There are a range of possibilities. Ambani has planned to put together a fund; that in combination with GenNext Hub will be very powerful," says Gururaj. He knows a thing or two about investments and exits. In his 26-year career, Gururaj has founded six technology ventures, two of which have been acquired by Nasdaq-listed companies. One of the many hats he wears now is that of an angel investor.

"If you look at funding as a matrix, we have three startups that have reached Series B level, typically a raise of $10-15 million. And about 15-16 startups, which are at the seed stage to Series A, will typically garner $5 million," says Mashelkar. "We have had a fair amount of success in advancing these goals."

The Big Finds Mashelkar gets passionate when he talks about Kochi-based startup RecipeBook, which was discovered during a workshop in the city. The artificial intelligence and image recognition venture firm, which is less than two years old, has scaled up so fast that it has now entered the Google launch pad accelerator in Silicon Valley, ready for its next phase of growth. "It came from our GenNext Hub," says Mashelkar, with pride. "We built the whole model from business to consumer and business to business. When they came in, they had eight lakh downloads; now they have crossed 4 million downloads, with 40,000 to 50,000 active users."

Does Ambani track these startups? "He loves to hear the ideas coming out of this hub," says Mashelkar.

Sanjay Mehta, an angel investor who has been actively involved as a mentor at Gen-Next Hub, talks of how some of the firms that he has invested benefited from the GenNext Hub. One such venture is PayTunes, which replaces ringtones and caller tunes with ad jingles, allowing the user to get 10 paise for every incoming call. Mehta says this concept was tested by Jio. "Getting into Reliance would be very difficult for a startup, but GenNext gives us access without any hindrance.

Amey has been instrumental in building that bridge," he adds. Two apprehensions, from the angel investor perspective, were the prospect of a sustained deal flow, and whether the big corporation would take over sooner than later. "A lot of comfort was given by GenNext Hub (on these two fronts)," says Mehta, who has a portfolio of about 60 ventures. There's also plenty of hand-holding, and Mehta cites the example of a drone startup, where RIL helped in wading through the policy framework.

Manisha Raisinghani and Dhruvil Sanghvi, cofounders of LogiNext, a logistics software startup, have Paytm as their investor. After growing from scratch out of the GenNext Hub, the firm, which has developed a software that can track anything that moves, is now present in 10 countries. Deal ticket sizes have surged five-fold from $20,000 in the initial years. "Reliance helped us scale up," says Raisinghani.


Manisha Raisinghani is a cofounder of LogiNext. It grew from scratch out of GenNext Hub and is now present in 10 countries
Alumni of Carnegie Mellon University where they did their master's in big data analytics and optimisation, they returned to India and founded LogiNext.

Satish Kashyap is the cofounder of Algo Engines, which has conceived a product for improving the performance of wind turbine, solar and hydroelectric plants. "We take sensor data, ascertain which turbine is underperforming and prepare a body mass index report, which reveals the gear box fitness score and the effect on the turbine." After the programme with GenNext Hub, it forayed into international markets and saw its revenue doubling.


Satish Kashyap is the cofounder of Algo Engines, which has forayed into international markets and seen its revenue doubling
At the Nasscom 2017 summit, Ambani quoted his favourite professor from the University Department of Chemical Technology, Man Mohan Sharma: "You find a problem and then I will grade you on the quality of the problem that you find and then I will grade you on the quality of solution that you actually do." Ambani said the same rules apply to an entrepreneur; it is not about solving problems, it is about first finding problems. "Once you find the problem then you solve it." His GenNext Hub enables entrepreneurs to solve problems.

Startup 'Graduates' at GenNext Hub



Read more: Why Reliance is playing mentor to a bunch of...

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