Punjab looks at sun to cut down Rs 5,500 cr free power bill

Punjab is looking towards tapping solar energy to cut down its mounting free power bill. After announcing to make the state power surplus through thermal plants,Deputy Chief Minister Sukhbir Badal Tuesday said it would try to use solar power to run the nearly 13 lakh tubewells in the state.

“We have to ensure power not subsidy to farmers. If we are able to generate power through solar plants and solar parks,Punjab would not have to shell out Rs 5,500 to Rs 6,000 crore as power subsidy,” he said after giving away letters of award for generating 250 MW of solar power to private bidders,including eight large (five to 30 MW) and 18 small (one to four MW) plants.

Punjab had initially set a target of bidding out 1,000 MW for solar power. It was brought down to a more pragmatic 300 MW by the Punjab Renewable Energy Agency (PEDA),of which bids were received for 250 MW.

Punjab Renewable Energy Minister Bikram Singh Majithia said Punjab is said to have missed the information technology bus,but it will not miss the solar energy boom. “Each megawatt of solar power entails investment of Rs 8 to 10 crore. By installing 250 MW,we will bring in investment of Rs 2,500 crore to Rs 3,000 crore. We have also identified space for installing solar panels on government buildings. To begin with,60 MW will be bid out. For making biomass based plants viable,we will approach the power regulator for allowing a more attractive rate of power purchase. There are also plans to create solar parks with installed capacity of up to 1000 MW,” he said.

Majithia said five other states had also bid for solar energy simultaneously but the response to Punjab was better owing to the “incentives policy,making prior arrangements for payments with banks and other facilitation services offered by the government”. “We studied policies of other states and came out with one which attracted the highest number of bidders. Unlike thermal plants,renewable sources of energy pose no environment hazard. The rates of solar energy are also going down – they are around Rs 8 per unit – making them viable for states to purchase it,” he added.

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