The NDA government’s ambitious goal to install 1000 MW of solar energy at Indian defence establishments has been slashed to less than a third following the Defence Ministry’s refusal to spare the required land.
The Defence Ministry’s argument is that its vacant lands are earmarked for military purposes.
“The scheme is focused on defence establishments on assumption that Department of Defence and the Services have large tracts of surplus land which can be used for setting up solar plants. However, it is necessary to highlight that defence lands are earmarked for military purposes only,” it has said.
The open spaces within military stations, the ministry has said, were being used for essential activities like firing ranges, training, parades and sports, and the lands “vacant at present” were earmarked for future use of defence forces or organisations.
“As such, availability of land for setting up solar projects cannot be presumed,” it has reacted on the proposal for setting up 1,000 MW of solar projects. “The Department of Defence would therefore not be able to commit to any target capacity for setting up solar power plants,” it has added.
The Ministry said it could consider installing such projects on rooftops of buildings and in forward areas that were not grid-connected “only when necessity is firmly established and where all power generated can be consumed within the unit/establishment”.
The Ministry of New and Renewable Energy (MNRE) is now proposing that defence establishments set up 300 MW of solar projects during 2014-19, and has pruned the viability gap funding outlay to Rs 750 crore from the earlier Rs 2,500 crore.
“Since Ministry of Defence has not given any clear commitment, it is proposed to reduce the financial outlay to Rs 750 crore. With this outlay more than 300 MW capacity of solar power projects can come under the scheme,” says the MNRE’s proposal for the Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs.
MNRE Minister Piyush Goyal told Parliament on August 6 that the defence sector and government companies would each set up solar projects of 1,000 MW with equipment sourced only from domestic manufacturers.
The revised proposal provides VGF up to Rs 2.5 crore per megawatt on condition that project developers sell solar power to the Ministry of Defence or its sister establishments at a fixed levelised tariff of Rs 5.50 per kilowatt hour for 25 years using solar cells and modules “made in India”.
Energy security is prominent on the agenda of the NDA government. The government’s first Budget provided excise duty exemptions for raw materials for solar and wind power projects. Only around 13 per cent of India’s installed power generation capacity is fuelled by renewable energy sources.