11/02/2020 – News / Coal / India / Power / Renewables / Carbon / Tax / Waiver / Energy

Carbon tax waiver on coal may pose risk to India’s renewable energy growth


With India’s coal power sector struggling over the past few years, the Indian government has proposed a carbon tax waiver on coal – one that may pose significant risk to the country’s renewable energy sector growth, according to analytics firm GlobalData.

In an attempt to help finance pollution curbing equipment and alleviate significant debt levels in the power industry, a proposed waiver of INR400 rupees/ton (US$5.61) of carbon tax would be given on the production and import of coal in India. The waiver would help project proponents of coal-fired plants to install pollution-curbing equipment that would cut the emissions of sulphur dioxides. However, such a move would also make renewables less competitive.


Coal is still king in India 


“The power sector in India is mainly driven by non-renewable energy sector, with coal contributing more than 55 per cent of the country’s installed capacity,” advised Mohit Prasad, Project Manager at GlobalData. “The waiver in carbon tax is likely to have a negative impact on the growth of renewable energy. The coal-based power sector – which had witnessed cancellations of projects and competitions from renewable sources after the cost of renewables in India fell below that of coal – and gas-based power will now regain momentum.”


As per GlobalData, the annual installations of coal-fired plants started to dip in 2016, and the declining trend continued through to 2018. During the same period, however, solar PV installations have increased significantly, mainly driven by competitive auctions.  


Pressure on green-energy developers


“The proposed waiver has been announced at a time when most renewable energy auctions in India are getting undersubscribed,” Mr Prasad informed. “The fall in tariffs under the auction mechanism has been putting pressure on the margins of project developers, thereby reducing the economic feasibility of project pipeline in renewable energy sector. This is manifesting itself in the under-subscription of the auctions seen in recent times.” 


Furthermore, one of the major technical challenges with renewable energy is intermittency, resulting in low utilisation of transmission infrastructure. Hence, India’s Ministry of New and Renewable Energy (MNRE) has issued a draft policy for the supply of round-the-clock (RTC) power from renewable energy projects complemented with thermal power projects. 


‘Reverse bundling’ will reverse coal power decline 


Prasad concludes: “To address this low utilisation of transmission infrastructure, ‘reverse bundling’ would be done wherein high cost thermal power is bundled with low cost renewable energy in order to provide RTC power to discoms. The two measures are together expected to reverse the declining trend in coal-based capacity additions.”

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