Engie’s presence in India has been around for over two decades, how has the experience been?
Engie is the world’s largest Independent Power Producer (IPP), with more than 100 GW in operation globally. This includes power generation from all sources like natural gas, hydro, wind, solar, nuclear, coal, biomass & biogas, etc. Engie has a worldwide strategy to promote Low Carbon energy and gradually phase out of activities with the highest levels of CO2 emissions such as coal fired power production. Engie has identified India as a potential country that can contribute in accomplishing its ambition to be a world leader in the transition to zero-carbon emission. Engie Group also provides governments, communities, cities and businesses with efficient and innovative solutions based on its expertise in four key sectors: independent power development, renewable energy, liquefied natural gas and energy efficiency services. ENGIE employs 155,000 people worldwide and is present in 70 countries across 5 continents.
ENGIE has been present in India since more than 20 years, carrying out service activities such as engineering and renewable energy generation. Its total generation capacity now stands at 1.5 GW+, which includes 1GW+ of Solar and 482 MW of Wind. Engie group employs around 1,000 people in India, including power generation development that commenced in 2014, as well as in energy and engineering services, which existed since about two decades.
Engie’s 101MWp solar plant in UP was inaugurated by India’s Prime Minister Mr. Narendra Modi and French President Mr. Emmanuel Macron.
Engie’s experience in India has been encouraging despite challenges encountered by the renewable industry in general. The major challenges faced generally have been around land acquisition, inter-coordination between various governmental agencies, evacuation approvals, etc.
Where do you see the Solar Energy industry in India poised for the next 10 years? What are your growth plans for the Indian market?
With the government initiatives enforced across the country, India is poised to grow rapidly in achieving the target of 175GW of renewable energy by 2022. India has a large potential for renewable energy and the government has set up massive goals for solar power generation.
In the next 10 years, India is set to be one of the largest solar power producers with the generation being used across industries, agriculture, homes, etc. Considering this huge potential, Engie has ambitious plans for India and would aim to be one of the key players in the solar and wind industry in India, as long as the policies and initiatives by the Indian government remain supportive.
India is now producing the world’s cheapest solar power, what are your views on the same?
Healthy competition leads to the growth of the industry. India is an extremely competitive market, and this factor has been the key in shaping the economics of the sector. As long as the pricing in the renewable market can produce power efficiently, without compromising on the quality of the plants, it will continue to be adopted by the industry. We also believe that there should be enforcement of minimum specifications in order to ensure that quality is not comprised while trying to be competitive.
The path forward is to be competitive by using new and innovative technologies to build high-efficiency power plants. Hybrid power plants, battery storage, floating solar plants, etc. are some of the high potential markets in the immediate future. LCOE would be a crucial factor for driving hybrid tenders either with Solar PV + Storage or Solar PV + Wind or all three PV + Wind + Storage together, where PLF can be maximized with optimum capex and opex.
What are your views on the Government policies? Do you think they have brought about the intended benefits?
The Government’s targets are quite ambitious. It has set a target of installing 175 GW of renewable energy capacity by the year 2022, which includes 100 GW from solar, 60 GW from wind, 10 GW from bio-power and 5 GW from small hydropower. This has given impetus for the renewable energy sector to grow rapidly.
In order to achieve this target, various policies and initiatives to promote investment in this market have been introduced. One amongst some of the encouraging policies, is that the Union power ministry has made it mandatory for DISCOMs to open and maintain letters of credit (LCs). This will prove to be a reassuring payment-security mechanism under power purchase agreements (PPAs) signed with generation companies. Another motivating initiative of the government is the recent 20-40 per cent financial subsidy for new residential rooftop solar installations. This will significantly accelerate the pace of such roof-top installations. But what we would really like to see is the alignment of various policies between different Departments of the Government like PGCIL, CEA, SECI and State Agencies, which can smoothen the implementation of projects and can invite more investments into the country.
Technology is moving forward all the time, is there anything that you’re looking forward to seeing happen in the next few years?
Technological innovations and developments are the only way forward for a sustainable market. In the solar industry, various breakthroughs have been achieved to increase the Wp rating and efficiency of the PV modules. There have also been developments in the Inverters, leading to higher power and voltage ratings, higher DC overloading, string inverters suitable for large PV plants, etc. Developments in the tracking technology & robotic dry module cleaning systems, have also been promising. Various innovations are ongoing in the areas of Floating solar, Hybrid and Battery storage projects. Apart from lithium ion batteries, there are many other technologies where experiments are being conducted in the laboratories and expected to hit the commercial market soon. Engie has around 1000 researchers in the world with various labs, with a dedicated lab for lithium ion batteries. Hydrogen as a means of storage is also being studied.
To Improve the grid stability, there has been a lot of emphasis on forecasting & scheduling of the renewable power. Many Innovative solutions for the same are now available in the market and further improvements on many aspects are ongoing.
All these advances are promising as they will lead to improvement in project economies.