'Laggard' JK aims to catch on solar revolution

'Laggard' JK aims to catch on solar revolution

JAKEDA under fire for acting as roadblock

Often termed as the “laggard” in terms of tapping solar power potential, Jammu and Kashmir is finally set to enter the environment friendly energy sector through a scheme involving farmers and unemployed youth, who have pledged their land for setting up 60 MW solar power plants.

This October Jammu and Kashmir Energy Development Agency (JAKEDA) had called for entries from farmers and unemployed youth for setting up of solar power plants on their barren lands. 

Under the “Distributed Generation of Solar Energy Scheme” of the Ministry of New and Renewable energy, Government of India, people were invited to become solar power entrepreneurs.

Although the scheme was not publicized much, but it still managed to get 57 applications from all over the state. Now the JAKEDA has shortlisted 32 applications based on their land holdings. “This was a central scheme, in which locals were asked to pitch their land as equity,” said Shafat Sultan, CEO JAKEDA. “40 kanals of land is required to construct one MW of solar plant. And keeping that as a threshold, we have shortlisted 32 applications. An estimated 60 MWs of solar power plants would be generated on these selected landholdings. We are now waiting for MNRE approval and then final list will be published.”

Sultan said that every MW of solar electricity requires Rs 8 crore as investment and locals cannot afford to spend that much. “That is the reason MNRE will construct the power plant through some agency. The locals will get royalty,” said Sultan.

“Actually this scheme was aimed for other states where farmers commit suicide due to drought. Here no such thing happens so it got a limited response,” he further added.

However experts have thrashed the arguments of JAKEDA terming their attitude as a major roadblock to development of solar power in the state. “JAKEDA lives in limited solar lantern mentality and they have no idea how fast the world of solar power is developing,” said a solar expert who had also applied for a small solar plant with his land. “They say one MW solar PV plant needs 40 kanals of land but in reality we need just 32 kanals and sometimes even less for high efficiency modules and little tweaking.”

The private players claimed that the state could have attracted applications worth more than 100 MWs, had the scheme been advertised properly. “In the scheme it was clearly written that application is invited for 0.5 to 5 MW solar power plants, so how can JAKEDA unanimously cap it at 1 MW. Besides being against rules it has also reduced number of solar power plants,” he said.

“Secondly the agency says that the amount needed for the constructing one MW of solar power plant is around Rs 8 crores, which is grossly incorrect,” said the expert. “These people don’t even check their own website where they had uploaded a document “Determination of Generic Levelised Generation Tariff for RET (Amendment) 2015-16” where it is clearly written that Normative Capital cost per MW of solar power is just Rs 6.05 crores.”

The experts blamed the government for putting non-experts at the crucial posts, which is hindering state’s potential in renewable energy. “Solar Energy is a revolution sweeping entire world and here the officers say that it is for stopping the suicide rate of farmers,” said the expert. “They discourage us rather showing the way forward.”

Under National Solar Mission, India has set a target to produce 20,000 MW of solar power by 2017 and 100,00 MW by 2022. Currently the installed capacity stands at around 4400 MW and J&K has not been able to construct a single MW project.

According to a report by Centre for Science and Environment New Delhi, J&K is a laggard in exploiting solar energy. At the national level J&K is among the worst performers, even Jharkhand has 16 MW solar power plants whereas J&K has none. The state has one of the highest potential in solar power estimated to be 111 GW, a major part of which is concentrated in Ladakh region.

The developers also thrash the argument that the centre is going to construct the power plants. “These days solar plants are easy to construct and with little expertise we can construct them within six months. Even Coordination Committee doesn’t talk about MNRE constructing projects by themselves. In the scheme too, there was no such provision, ” said another developer.

In September the State Government accorded sanction to the constitution of Coordination Committee for effective implementation and operationalization of the scheme for development of Solar Power Plant by unemployed youth and farmers. The Committee was tasked to help the unemployed youth and farmers in getting the land identified, financial closures through banks and guide them in setting up projects in other Renewable Energy Technologies like Wind, Biomass, Hydra, solar etc.