India’s RE sector offers scale of economies to foreign investors: Dhananjay Singh, ENGIE

Highlights :

The Indian renewables arm of French energy firm, ENGIE, is a prominent player in India and among the largest foreign investors in India in the renewables and storage space. The firm has been bidding for solar and wind projects proactively in India, given its rising ambitions in the country. In an interview with Saur Energy International, Dhananjay Singh, Director, Corporate Affairs, ENGIE, speaks about the projects recently won by the firm in the country by way of bidding, trends in storage and what makes India’s climate conducive for investment…

India’s RE sector offers scale of economies to foreign investors: Dhananjay Singh, ENGIE India offers scale of economies to foreign investors: Dhananjay Singh, ENGIE

Please tell us about your installed capacities in India.

Globally, we have got about 38 Gigawatts of renewable capacity and out of that in India, we have got over a gigawatt in operations and close to 1 gigawatt in construction. And then we want to grow bigger in India and probably we want to be close to 5 gigawatts by 2025-26. That’s the aspiration, but it can expand depending on the opportunities. This we are talking about in pure RE play, solar and a small part of that is wind. In recent times, we are very glad that we have won a 400 Megawatt project in Gujarat, which is under construction and we won a 300 Megawatt for NTPC. The bid was coordinated by REC and the location of the project would be in Rajasthan. That project is also in the implementation phase. So, this is where we are today in India.


What are the biggest technological trends in the energy storage sector that should come up in India in the near future?

Probably in future, we will see more of Hydrogen Fuel Cells also as part of the Hydrogen, which is very important for greater stability. As of now, we have been able to manage pumping out of RE power which is intermittent, into the grid, because we have a very solid support of coal, gas, hydro as well as nuclear. But going forward, I think we will need to start adding more and more storage. It is a price sensitive market. So, there has to be a balance the pricing and the technology in storage market.

When we speak of large capacities of storage, of course battery has a role to play, but, it would be lower in terms of capacity and pumped storage would be quite big.  There can be some other aspects of natural storage, but those are not exactly storage capacities, I would say, for example offshore wind, in terms of capacity utilization, we can get 50%-55% CUF (Capacity Utilisation Factor). This would be naturally complimentary to solar and also wind as part of storage.

Through Ocean Wings (a firm in offshore wind energy and created as a 50-50 joint venture, owned by EDP Renewables and ENGIE), we have got about 15 gigawatts plus in pipeline and when we say pipeline it means at least seabed lease we have. We have one and a half gigawatts in operation and one and a half gigawatts in construction but in India our immediate focus in the next couple of years will be battery storage in terms of technology for storage.

How do you view Lithium-Ion batteries in the storage sector? Which are the next best alternatives that we could place our place are bets on?

As of now, Lithium-Ion seem to be the best possible choice but I think a lot of R&D and other work is going on about how we can replace Lithium. Our government and ministers often keep on talking about Sodium based or other technologies, but before they mature and they really get stable, I think as of now Lithium is more viable specifically for moving storage. For stationery storage, yes, Zinc and others can still come, but Lithium still runs the market, I would say.

ENGIE is one of the biggest foreign investors in India. So, what pulls it to India and what other investments could we see coming in?

Very interesting question. Look at India, and what it offers to any foreign investor. So, we have demand here, we have good resources in terms of radiation, in terms of skilled manpower, financing, stable regulatory framework. So, all these things are very solid, robust and are very professionally managed. It takes away a lot of your concerns and risks. But we at ENGIE consider an important aspect, that is the option to choose because you have lots of gigawatts of projects being auctioned every month and you have an option to choose for participation- such as locations, states. So that’s a great choice. That is one of the things that is a very important key for any FDI to be in a market like India. And then scale of economy, you can go into gigawatts. So, that is what interests us.

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