Despite the increased tariff caps for wind power projects, the ISTS programme received negligible responses in 2019. Is this because of a lack of preparedness in the supply chain? Or is there some disconnect that discourages developers from participating in new projects?
In India especially, the low response cannot be pinned onto just one reason, there are various rationales; there are regulatory reasons, the constraints of the grid & the state regulatory authorities, various regulations still not being in place, etc. Until 2016, the tariff in India was a ‘feed-in-tariff’, therefore everyone was enjoying it, and everything was going well. Subsequently, India introduced the ‘bid-in-tariff’, where the tariffs collapsed literally with hardly any takers, the same continues. With that being said, the current government is working hard to fix all these bottlenecks, and possibly, in another one and a half/two years, India will be back and up in wind energy.
Access to wind sites has been a circulating problem for the wind generation sector. While many have access to funds, the availability of land has been a problem or vice-versa. Is there any potent solution to this? Can the government help resolve this issue in any way?
It has been an observation that there is no policy upgradation happening state-wise or even country-wise, as there has always been an entailing rift between the state and the centre. There is no cohesive effort to bring sustainability programmes to renewable energy, especially wind energy. So, what is required currently is a ‘one India, one energy’ solution. When one starts to think of ‘one India, one energy’, the focus will only be on growing sustainable energy. For example, to attain the Paris Summit commitment of 175 GW renewable energy generation by 2030, various faults are in the way that need to be eliminated. A joint approach between all the stakeholders, like turbine manufacturers, IPPs, regulatory authorities, etc, is needed to bring wind as the most sustainable energy source in India.
Do you think the concentrated focus on solar energy generation has led to wind energy falling behind in India? How do you think the country can overcome this disparity?
In solar energy, all one needs is a land parcel or a roof. Infrastructure wise, to build a wind farm, one has 10x more challenges and struggles. Also, good sites – the Class A wind sites – are not available; and if they are available, they possess 20-25 year old small turbines. If old turbines are extracted and repowered, India can multiply five times more its current potential from the same site. But this ‘repowering policy’ is not in place for India. So, as a first step, India should implement a repowering policy, where the best sites can be used for bigger turbines. Secondly, many states are now developing for the Class C / 3 wind sites. So, to reiterate, the state and central government need to work hand-in-hand to remove all the roadblocks. Lastly, the best solution is to offer hybrid, i.e. a combination of wind and solar energy.
Enercon has some prominent competitors in the industry. What new business models are you implementing to ensure an upper hand in the market?
In India, wind turbine manufacturers have massive gearboxes, which adds to the weight of the turbine. Also, these gearboxes have various challenges, like frequent oil changes, dust accumulation, eventual speed reduction, etc. Enercon, technology-wise, in comparison to other manufacturers, is at the forefront in the wind sector. We are the leading company which produces gearless turbine technology. Our maintenance is extremely low in comparison to the gearbox-driven technology. Also, since our technology is electronically driven via direct drive, we do not have to worry about the challenges. Most importantly, India will be our export hub, meaning, at our highest priority, we are aiming not to sell in the Indian market but to export to the world market before we launch our Indian-specific turbine.
Digitalisation is a prominent part of India’s growth in general. Can you cite ways in which digitalisation will be a big part of the wind industry? Also, can you elaborate on some innovations in digitalisation that Enercon has introduced?
Digitalisation, i.e., AI, ML, cloud computing, etc, will be the future. In the wind energy sector, we had SCADA monitoring the turbine performance, which was not very modern technology-oriented. Today, we have a cloud-based monitor, wherein from a mobile phone, one can monitor at what speed their turbine is working in any part of the world. With it, people can get a real-time update on the speed and power generated from each turbine. Digitalisation today is not only for COVID times for getting food delivered or easy banking, but it is also for industries like ours. We can get all the details we want right in the palm of our hands.
How committed is the renewable energy sector to the Aatmanirbhar Bharat mission? Where does the wind energy sector place itself in this journey?
In self-reliant India or the Aatmanirbhar Bharat mission, the government’s highest priority is renewable energies, i.e., solar, wind, hydel and biomass. India, by 2030, will have 100 GW of solar and 60 GW of wind and the rest is divided between biomass and hydel. So, to achieve this, the government is giving plenty of options to customise. Let’s say, tomorrow if all the IT companies, which are major power utilisers in India, decide to source 50% of their energy from renewable sources, our country would easily be one of the front runners for attaining zero carbon. So, to fulfil the dream of a self-reliant India, all of us have to work cohesively.
To summarise, what would you insinuate are the necessities for the wind sector in India to grow? How does Enercon plan to increase its prowess in India amidst the challenges?
The government is an umbrella under which all the stakeholders need to come together with one mission and vision: to establish the wind energy sector and make India self-reliant in sustainable power. Taking help from international agencies, like Global Wind Energy Council (GWEC), can help India grow out of the traditional systems and boost the renewable energy stand in the country.
As far as Enercon is concerned, with our business model in India, we are collaborating with MSMEs that are technologically very strong but don’t have the resources or the reach. We support them to build their organisation for us in India, where they will produce for us exclusively. We are already ready with our first plant producing the generator by an MSME called Coral in Erode, Tamil Nadu. Our organisation’s objective is to hold the hand of Indian MSMEs and make them rise.