SunEdison setback may delay PM Narendra Modi’s “ultra mega” solar drive in India

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The likely collapse of SunEdison Inc’s solar project in India, the first of 32 planned “ultra mega” complexes, could delay Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s goal to increase renewable energy fivefold by several years and probably cost consumers more. As the US solar giant fights to stave off bankruptcy, the 500 megawatt project in Andhra Pradesh state it won last November lies idle with ground yet to be broken. The other projects are still to be bid on. It’s doubtful any rival will pick up the project at the aggressive power pricing promised by SunEdison, which beat out 29 other bidders with a record-low tariff of Rs 4.63 (7 US cents) per kilowatt-hour. That will force officials to tighten auction rules to ensure that only serious, bankable bidders show up, industry sources said. India plans to auction more of the “ultra mega” projects – those which generate at least 500 MW – in the current fiscal year through to March 2017. Tightening auction rules could slow the pace at which projects are awarded and built, pushing back Modi’s goal of expanding solar capacity to 100 gigawatts by 2020 to the middle of the decade, say officials and industry players. Tripathy, however, said government will for now stick to its goal, set by Modi soon after taking office in 2014, and that it has planned for SunEdison-like bumps in the road with a strong project pipeline. The company is now exploring a sale of its Indian assets of around 1 GW or seeking partners for them, sources said, and has drawn preliminary interest from billionaire Gautam Adani’s fast-expanding Adani Group. Apart from the Andhra project, SunEdison has several other small plants under construction across India.

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