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Forest law changes may speed up energy projects in Karnataka

Karnataka’s stringent forest laws are coming in the way of units involved in the production of renewable energy. They find getting clearance for projects time consuming.

Forest laws should be streamlined so projects could move faster, said Shamim Banu, principal secretary of energy department.

Efforts to get land in areas near Western Ghats that are conducive for creating wind energy have not yielded results. Procedural problems are causing delays and foiling the department’s efforts to increase the share of renewable energy from 7% to 10%, she said speaking at the 10th Green Power organised by the CII.

The department is in talks with developers who are grappling with getting land. While tariff for energy, other than solar energy, is not an issue, efforts to begin operations in wind-rich parts of the state are facing bottlenecks.

The way to get around the cost issue of solar energy is to invest in research that would enable companies to make more out of less land. Now to produce each megawatt of power, five acres is needed. Costs are likely to go down with experience, she said.

Specific regulation related to wind energy is due and more discipline with the grids will come with time.

In India, 5% of the energy requirement already comes from renewable sources. However, more needs to be done to increase its share. Making land more accessible and tweaking policies to support the transition are urgent measures, said Dr Pramod Deo, chairperson of central electricity regulatory commission.

The initial high tariffs must not put off people. Only when the investor sees the opportunity to make profits would he go ahead, he said.

“There is no point haggling for 10% or 15% as the long-term gains are higher. By 2050, a combination of factors will push us to the goal. The price for fossil fuels will go up but it will be the other way for non-renewable forms. By 2020, solar power will be `9 or `8 per unit, said S Srinivas, one of the panelists at the discussion on central regulatory issues.

Another spoke in the wheel is delay in implementing the renewable energy law. Generation-based incentives need to go up to `1.20 per unit, said Ramesh Kymal, chairman, renewable energy council, CII.

Entrepreneurs said they were not looking at sops or subsidies but policy frameworks that would be in their favour. Subsidies that other forms of energy are enjoying should be brought down, they said.

Escoms too are part of the problem, said S Ramesh, chief engineer, Karnataka Power Corporation.

“There are issues with the grid which cause delay at Escoms. Also, getting clearances from the MOEF is not easy. The 6000mw project that has been in the pipeline has run into a roadblock at the ministry. Realising a project within five years is extremely difficult. The tender itself came after 1.5 years,” he said adding that despite being a government officer, he has been unable to get things done.