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Adding more ‘power’ to Goa’s game

Can Goa see a change in 2020? As we march into the New Year, the people of Goa remain at crossroads. The challenges are enormous. Goa will have to go the distance and hit a perfect ‘six’ if it has to emerge a clear winner in 2020. TG Life highlights the six big issues that Goa faces, and which will be decisive in the year ahead. Today, we take a look at the electricity and power scenario in Goa. In the week ahead TGLife will dwell on other critical issues such as mining, tourism, employment, and electricity

08th January 2020, 04:26 Hrs

BHARATI PAWASKAR


Formed in January 1963, the Electricity department of Goa, Daman and Diu has been running for exactly 57 years now and needs a revamp in 2020. Though the department does not produce any electricity, it has been buying the same from other states to supply to its consumers in Goa – where the consumption of electricity is very high compared to other states in India.   

With 6.19 lakh power consumers, Goa stands among states that consume the highest amount electricity and the per capita electricity use here is one of the highest in India. Goa’s requirement is 500 megawatts which covers domestic, commercial as well as industrial needs. 

According to electricity department sources the state can be supplied uninterrupted power supply in all seasons, including monsoon, if underground cables are laid at the estimated expenses of Rs 2500 crore but to do so, state exchequer does not have funds. Power supply however is often interrupted due to old power stations and the dilapidated wiring system. To replace that, again, funds are required. For  future infrastructural needs in 2020 like unmanned power stations, lots of money has to be pumped in.   

Exploring potential in solar power  

There’s another option of shifting to renewable energy and one of the best alternatives is the sun. The state is waking up to solar power and in the last five years has witnessed a great shift. “We only need to change the public mindset and appeal them to go solar,” says Anish Sousa, founder and CEO at Sun360, a company that offers solar solutions across Goa.   

However, despite huge potential, currently there’s ‘wait and watch’ attitude regarding solar energy options. The lack of clarity on the subsidy part has kept solar policy on the back foot. “People must understand and agree that this proposition makes sense – financially, socially and environmentally,” advocates Anish. Agreeing that locals need a lot of training as this is a new industry, Anish stresses on the importance of hiring local youth though there’s limited curriculum of solar energy courses in colleges.   

The state has kept a target of generating 23 megawatts of solar power till March 2020 and 150 megawatts by 2022. Goa’s power minister Nilesh Cabral feels that if Goa turns to sun for inhouse energy generation, the state would not have to buy expensive power to meet the renewable power obligations. It is to be noted here that according to the Ministry of Renewable Energy guidelines, the states should generate solar power on massive scale – 100 gigawatts under the NaMo vision and until December 2019 India has already crossed 50 per cent of the target that was decided under the seven-year plan period - 2015-2022. Initially, less than 20,000 megawatts were produced which later increased to 30,000 megawatts across India.   

Obstacles in the green energy path  

Goa was among the states that were directed to generate 150 megawatts of solar power as per the policy. However, Goa, unfortunately encountered multiple obstacles in finalising the policy itself and it took December 2018 to finalise it along with all the amendments. This delay was due to bureaucratic reasons allege sources in the solar power sector.   

However, major credit for taking the policy forward with a firm mind goes to the former chief minister late Manohar Parrikar who played a strong role along with the Solar Power Association of Goa, that acted as a catalyst in the entire process of finalizing the policy. “Cabral needs to be thanked too for his sincere involvement that allowed the policy to see the light of the day,” maintains Dilip Naik, CEO at Rainbow Solar Power Solutions, pointing out that Cabral brought amendments giving subsidy up to 50 per cent to the domestic sector and 20 per cent to the commercial sector.   

 “There’s no policy as good as Goa state solar policy and there are no reasons why Goans should not opt for solar policy. Since Goa does not produce any electricity on its own, and there are definite chances of tariff hike in electricity. Even if it is increased by 100 per cent, it will be lowest in the country,” claims Dilip who who has installed 22 projects and claims that majority of them have started getting negative electricity bills.   

“Goa could be a role model state for others to follow and to see that maximum carbon footprint is arrested in our tiny state. We need to learn lessons from Diu which was totally dependent for power needs. Today it is exporting five megawatts of solar power energy per day,” observes Dilip.   

Currently 275 installations are going on in the state amounting to 16 megawatts as on date, out of which five megawatts are already converted to grids. Subsidy is paid after six months from the date of injecting power into the grid. People have already crossed injecting power and after completing six months, are now eligible to get subsidy in 2020. By December more than 400 persons/institutions will join the bandwagon.   

Initially, applications were received by GEDA but now they are received by the concerned sub-division in the state and GEDA is only the nodal agency. The state has already started working on power solutions but industry sources lament that somehow it is not catching up.   

“We have ample amount of sunshine even in the winter. So there’s huge potential, provided we tap it,” quips Blaise Costabir, former president of Verna Industrial Estate.   

MMCs and FMCG firms are switching to solar energy to meet a part of their power requirements. Businesses like laundry facility for large hospitality chains claim of using green facility. Homes and factories are generating their solar energy and some are even transferring it to the grid for which they are paid by the government. As Cabral has earlier mentioned, “It is better to pay our own people Rs 2.93 when they provide solar power to the grid, rather than buying it at Rs 7 from outside. The subsidy will benefit consumers and we will not be burdened with looking after the solar installations.”  Electricity department has been issuing zero bills to 30 plus roof-top connections.   

The consumers who have installed solar panels on rooftops are now waiting for the 50 per cent subsidy (central government 30 per cent and state government 20 per cent), stated in the amended solar policy which mentions of 50 per cent subsidy to households for rooftop solar collection in the solar policy. These subsidies will soon be released to the beneficiaries. It is high time Goa should embrace solar solutions, as the scarcity of land in Goa leaves it with no option for setting up nuclear, thermal, hydro power plants or even windmills. So each consumer having a small solar energy generation plant will benefit in the long run.

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