West Bengal Discoms Operate Without Any Clear Mandate On RPO

West Bengal Discoms Operate Without Any Clear Mandate On RPO West Bengal Discoms Operate Without Any Clear Mandate On RPO

Electricity distribution companies in West Bengal have been struggling on a different front when it comes to their handling of renewable energy portfolios. The state, which has merely 636 MW of total installed renewable power capacity (excluding hydro) till recently, was clueless about its Renewable Purchase Targets (RPOs). 

Legal complexities and litigations have kept the issue pending, leading to a lack of a clear mandate on the RPO targets of these discoms. The West Bengal Electricity Regulatory Commission (WBERC), on March 3, 2012, issued a regulation to deal with the RPO targets. It was named WBERC (Cogeneration and Generation of Electricity from Renewable Sources of Energy) Regulations 2013. 

The regulation mentioned the RPO targets up to 2017-18. It also paved the way for future projects. As per its provisions, the discoms were liable to increase their RPO targets by 1 percent each year till the ultimate target is reached by them.

In 2020, the WBERC brought forth an amendment to the regulation to specify the RPO targets for 2021-21 and 2022-23. However, things went sour when Bengal Energy Limited and Tata Power challenged the amended rules. The contention raised in these petitions was whether fossil-fuel cogeneration should be accepted as a renewable energy source and qualify for RPO or not.

RPO issue in High Court 

The issue was raised before the Calcutta High Court, which later put a stay order on the issue. This led to the issue being mired in legal intricacies, and there was little clarity on the RPO targets until recently. Meanwhile, the WBERC recently issued a sou motto order to remove these difficulties, which seems to have set the ball rolling, but a clear mandate has yet to be formed.

The WBERC, due to the legal hurdles, was unable to frame new regulations or executive older regulations for 2023-24. In its order, it directed that till the judgment is pending before the high court, the RPO targets of 2023-23 would continue till further order. It declined to intervene with the regulations which are under sub-judice. 

Meanwhile, the discoms in the state got temporary clarity on the issue and seemed to be working during the H2 to take steps to meet their newly defined RPO targets. 

The state with issues of land availability for big power projects is still harping on its coal reserves to fuel its power needs and unable to tap the renewable capacities. Its closest neighbour and one of the largest coal producers of India has an even higher share of renewable energy at 640 MW. The success of rooftop solar is also slower in the eastern Indian state. 

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