CSE endorses Act which says local communities should share benefit from RE
Decentralised distributed generation is part of the Act
A few areas need clarity and further definition
NEW DELHI, July 16: Centre for Science and Environment (CSE) has welcomed the draft National Renewable Energy Act and has made a few suggestions which it will share with the Ministry of New and Renewable Energy (MNRE). “The draft Act emphasizes that RE should be mainstreamed by offering financial incentives and infrastructural support to manufacturers and developers so as to bring RE on the same level playing field as fossil fuels,” said CSE’s Deputy Director General Chandra Bhushan.
Bhushan pointed out that the current draft was an amalgamation of the proposals that were sent by the members of the Expert Committee, which included CSE. “There are some aspects of the draft Act that are appreciable whereas some are missing from the draft,” said Bhushan.
For the people
Distributed renewable energy generation and energy access have been given special emphasis in the Act along with promotion of decentralised (small-scale units) and stand-alone renewable energy applications (such as heating and cooling) in rural and urban areas. The issues with large-scale deployment of distributed renewable energy have been addressed in the draft – especially related to grid connectivity and technical and safety measures. The draft also mentions that these decentralised distributed generation RE plants can charge the consumers a reasonable tariff. “The word ‘reasonable’ leaves the matter hanging as it is to be decided by the developer,” said Bhushan.
The draft Act mentions that there will be a process for an informed local consent for projects through a letter. It also mentions plans to devise a structure for revenue/benefit-sharing with the community. CSE endorses this stand and had, in its publication, State of Renewable Energy in India, stated that “RE must benefit the local community. Communities must have the first right over the electricity from renewable sources and they must benefit from the installation of renewable energy on their land.”
For the industry
The ministry plans to identify and develop RE investment zones to meet the goals that would be mentioned under the National RE Development Plan. The term ‘RE investment zones’ have been mentioned throughout the draft but it fails to address what this means – whether it is physical zones like solar parks or special economic zones or whether these are areas of project development as in plants, transmissions, etc. “There is a need for more clarity in this space,” said Bhushan.
The draft has expanded the components that can be part of the renewable purchase obligation (RPO), a small percentage of power consumption has to be procured from RE sources. All large-scale RE generation and off-grid systems based on RE providing electricity or equivalent services would be eligible to meet RPO. A penalty has been announced for non-compliance as well.
For the environment
The draft specifies that the best practices for streamlining project permits, clearances and institutional structure will be adopted. “Although the draft says that that renewable energy development should take place in a sustainable manner, there are very few indicators to ensure environmental protection,” said Bhushan. It does not explicitly say how ecologically sensitive areas will be treated or how Environment Impact Assessment (EIA) will be done for RE projects.
While the draft tries to remove barriers for industry be it providing low-cost financing for developers or help in evacuating the generating power, it also addresses the woes of those 300 million who do not have access to electricity in the country by providing them decentralised solutions or off-grid in some cases. “CSE will send comments on the draft and we do hope that the final version of the Act will not have any gaps which will ensure that the share of renewable energy increases every year in the energy mix,” said Bhushan.
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