While the cost of solar power production is falling across the country, the companies which have approached the Uttar Pradesh Electricity Regulatory Commission (UPERC) for its approval to sell solar power to the state have quoted rates as high as Rs 9 plus per unit. This, when the neighbouring Madhya Pradesh recently received bids from companies to sell solar power at the rate of less than Rs 5 per unit for a period of 20 years. The issue is set to be raked up at the commission's hearing.
Petitions of the solar power companies accessed by TOI reveal some mindboggling figures. While a company called Jakson has sought to sell at the rate of Rs 9.24 per unit from its proposed 30 MW power plant, Sukhbir Solar Energy Private Limited has petitioned the electricity regulator seeking its approval to sell power at the rate of Rs 9.33 per unit. The latter has proposed to set up a 30MW solar power plant in UP.
'Jatadhari Merchandise' has quoted a rate of Rs 9.27 per unit. Similarly, KM has petitioned the UPERC to sell solar power to UP at the rate as high as Rs 9.25 per unit. The company has proposed to set up a 5Mw solar power plant in the state. So is the case with Acme power which wants to sell electricity from a 30MW power plant at the rate of Rs 8.93 per unit. Likewise, Moser Baer, which has proposed setting of a 40Mw solar power plant in Bundelkhand has also sought commission permission for selling at a price of around Rs 9 per unit.
Compared with the rate at which UP Power Corporation Limited buys power from various sources, while hydro-electric power plants sell at the rate of around barely 66 paise per unit, the cost of power from state owned thermal power plants is around Rs 3.50 per unit. Even the cost of power from energy exchange hovers in the range of around Rs 4 per unit, or even less. A senior UPPCL official admitted that it was not in a position to buy power at such a high cost. More so when it requires substantial power to fulfill the energy needs of people in the wake of UP assembly elections due in 2017.
Experts point out that cost of solar power should have witnessed a drop given the fact that increase in Chinese export of low-cost photovoltaic cells has led to an 80% drop in prices of solar panels. Also, the efficiency of the panels to convert solar energy into electricity has improved from 13% to 18%, resulting in cheaper power. The national average of solar power production was around Rs 17 per unit in 2010, but it has now come down to the range of Rs 5-6 per unit.
Not surprisingly, the situation has invited the criticism of power experts. Chairman of All India Power Engineers Federation, Shailendra Dubey said the whole solar power policy appears faulty. "There will be power purchase agreement with the private solar power companies and so the state would be forced to buy costly electricity. At the same time, the state government will have to resort to thermal backing (stop generation from its own power plants),'' he said, while speaking to TOI.