by Srinath Srinivasan
Renewable energy and digital transformation are big topics in India. Swissnex India, Consulate General of Switzerland, with a mandate from the Federal Office of Switzerland, has been promoting the exchange of technology and expertise in the field of renewable energy and digital technologies. This comes after a huge push from the Swiss government to find new solutions to replace conventional sources of energy with collaborations in tech hubs of the world, which includes India. In the next 15-20 years, even nuclear energy will be phased out of Switzerland and the licenses will not be renewed for their operation. To find newer solutions, Swissnex India has been bringing a delgation of researchers, academicians, technologists, small and medium businesses to find potential partnerships with Indian counterparts and to have a deeper understanding of Indian governmental policies.
“We’ve been organising events, workshops and tech weeks like Cleantech Week, across India, to prepare both the sides and give them an idea of what’s going on in India and Switzerland in the respective fields,” explains Sebastein Hug, CEO and Consul General, Swissnex India. Hug believes that these activities will help Swiss companies to know the Indian market better and adapt their business models accordingly. The consul also encourages angel investors from both sides to directly participate in its programmes, to assess and invest in both Swiss and Indian startups. While there are other governmental entities to take care of business outcomes in Switzerland and in India, Swissnex India focusses on the engagements and follows up after the business activities, which Hug says is the hardest part.
Hug believes that India and in specific, Bengaluru, have a lot to offer on energy and analytics. Bringing Indian expertise in these fields to Swiss technology startups has been the primary focus of Swissnex India. The other area of focus is electric mobility. Swissnex India aims on having discussions over building sustainable business models around renewable fuel technologies and battery technologies with Indian startups. Some of the other key technologies that are being explored for business potential are drone technology, digital healthcare, lifesciences, Virtual Reality (VR) and fintech.
Hug states that the prevalent perception of the Asian market in Switzerland is that if it’s Asia, then it has to be China. He attributes this to China’s capability to allocate huge budgets and approach Swiss universities for research and collaborations, which eventually result in business deals. As the Consul General here, he says that his role through Swissnex India is to change this perception and position India as a land of opportunities. He cites Swiss Re, a Swiss reinsurance and insurance company which has changed the perception of India from being an outsourcing hub to an innovation centre. Established in 2001 with 20 employees, Swiss Re today has 1000 employees and is one of the five technology innovations centres of Swiss Re’s global network. Similarly, ABB, a Swiss-Swedish multinational in robotics and heavy electrical sector, has its R&D centre in India today.
The sixth round of wind power auction by the state-run Solar Energy Corporation of India (SECI) that concluded on Thursday discovered a tariff of Rs 2.82/unit, the highest since February last year when the price bottomed out at Rs 2.44/unit. The results of the latest round of bidding have raised the fear that the “high tariffs”, which the state-run discoms could object to, might force the government to cancel the bids.
A similar rise in solar tariffs had resulted in auction process being put in abeyance. While solar tariffs reached the lowest level of `2.44/unit in 2017, it has since gone up to `2.71 in July 2018, leading to cancellation of the bids.
According to sources, of the 1,200 MW of wind power that went under the hammer, Adani Green, Ostro Energy (which was recently acquired by ReNew Power), Srijan Energy and Powerica have been allotted 250 MW, 300 MW, 150 MW and 50.6 MW respectively, for quoting the lowest price of `2.82/unit. SoftBank Group’s SB Energy has been awarded 325 MW against its bid of `2.83/unit, marking the Masayoshi Son-led firm’s foray into the country’s wind sector.
Hyderabad-based Ecoren Energy, which also quoted `2.83/unit has been allotted 125 MW.
An industry official said that one of the possible reasons why prices are going up is because the favourable locations for setting up wind plants have already been taken up and there is a lack of clarity on the land availability. The industry is also jittery about the tariffs going up, given the precedents of bids getting cancelled in the solar sector due to higher prices. SECI had cancelled 2,400 MW bids from the 3,000 MW solar auction which was held on July 13, where tariffs ranged between Rs 2.44/unit and Rs 2.71/unit.
“The government’s reaction to such tariffs would be crucial,” said a senior official from one of the winning firms.
Issues such as land availability and lack of transmission infrastructure has recently slowed down the capacity addition of wind power units with only 600 MW getting installed in the first six months of FY19. The capacity of wind power projects offered in the fifth and sixth tranches of competitive bidding were slashed to 1,200 MW from the original proposal of 2,500 MW, after SECI cancelled 2,000 MW wind tenders on tepid industry response.
As of now, only 604.7 MW out of the 1,050 MW auctioned in February, 2017 — which was the maiden bidding hosted by central government — have been operationalised. To promote inter-state sale of renewable power, the government has waived the inter-state transmission charges and losses for wind and solar projects to be commissioned by March, 2022.
Volkswagen plans to save 1 million tonnes of carbon-dioxide emissions a year by making production of its first electric model carbon neutral, part of an effort to clean up its image in the aftermath of the diesel-cheating scandal.
The automaker will use green power to assemble I.D. model at its plant in Zwickau and for the car’s battery cells, Volkswagen said Friday at an event in Dresden. Where renewable energy is unavailable, the company will invest in climate projects.
VW’s commitment is welcome news for Germany’s sputtering efforts to cut greenhouse gas emissions amid a reliance on coal-fired power and the steady growth in the number of combustion-powered vehicles on its roads. While energy sector emissions have declined since 1990, transport emissions have risen. Chancellor Angela Merkel aims to broker plans this year with car and truck makers to cut CO2 by around 40% by 2030.
After admitting in 2015 to rigging 11 million diesel vehicles to cheat on emissions tests, VW has pushed aggressively to develop electric vehicles. The VW brand alone will invest about 9 billion euros ($10 billion) to roll out 20 electric models by 2025, putting pressure on the company to make the spending pay off.
To address concerns about charging, Volkswagen has set up Elli to offer customers green power to recharge vehicles. The company is part of Ionity consortium that will install fast-charging stations at 400 locations on European highways.
“Climate change is the greatest challenge of our times,” Thomas Ulbrich, who oversees electric vehicles for the namesake VW brand, said in a statement. “Truly sustainable mobility is feasible if we all want it and we all work on it.”
On Monday, the tribunal also lifted payment restrictions on 133 foreign group companies. The court order follows an affidavit filed by IL&FS, categorising group companies into international and domestic, and the domestic into further three lists — green, amber and red. The green companies were the ones generating enough cash to meet all their payment obligations, while the amber list included those who could pay only some creditors. Companies in the red list were the worst placed financially (see graphic).
The 22 Indian companies that are free to repay creditors include North Karnataka Expressways, which held back from repaying bondholders because of the court order. Their failure to repay resulted in a downgrade by rating agencies last month, forcing investors to mark down their investments. Besides this, a host of companies on the block — including IL&FS Securities and IL&FS Solar Power — along with various companies housing wind power projects are in the green list.
The companies where lenders will have to make provisions are the parent IL&FS, IL&FS Financial Services, IL&FS Transportation Networks, IL&FS Energy Development Company and a host of other special purpose vehicles that are in the red list.
IL&FS Tamil Nadu Power and the road companies, which hold a bulk of IL&FS’ assets, are in the amber category, indicating that lenders might need to make provisions on their exposure to these companies. Eventually, lenders may have to take a haircut as part of the resolution process. The road projects in the amber list includes Jharkhand Road Projects Implementation Company, which was downgraded last month. Among others are the ITNL Road Infrastructure, Chenani-Nashri Tunnelway, West Gujarat Expressway and Moradabad-Bareilly Expressway.
Besides State Bank of India, other lenders of IL&FS include Bank of Baroda, Punjab National Bank, and Union Bank of India. Banks had asked the RBI to allow them to skip provisions on this loan as the company management was now controlled by the government-appointed board. However, the RBI had directed banks to start making provisions. Many banks have started making provisions in their loans to the IL&FS Group. In December, Bandhan Bank set aside Rs 385 crore in provision for its exposure to the troubled infra financier. IndusInd Bank had provided Rs 255 crore towards its IL&FS Group exposure of Rs 3,000 core.