Interview: Harmanjit Nagi

Harmanjit Nagi,
Managing Director at EDF India
 

“To Achieve Most Competitive Tariffs in India, Investment Cost Must be Continuously Optimized”

In order to achieve the most competitive tariffs in India, the cost of investment must be continuously optimized. This context will allow the implementation in the Indian market of improved technologies such as bifacial and higher efficiency solar panels, more performant wind turbines with higher capacity and larger diameter, or also other innovative solutions, such as molten salt storage solutions for solar electricity or wind and solar hybrid installations combined with energy management systems. These solutions are now being experimented in some countries, believes Harmanjit Nagi, Managing Director, EDF India – an arm of French multinational electric utility company, in an exclusive conversation with Manu Tayal, Associate Editor, Energetica India. Nagi also discussed about his company’s energy portfolio in India, its 2030 targets, EDF’s Pulse Start-up programme etc.

“Kindly provide some brief about EDF’s energy portfolio and its India presence.”

India is a key and strategic market for EDF particularly in renewables with solar energy projects via EDEN Renewables (a joint venture of EDF Renewables and Total Eren) and wind energy projects via EDF Renewables in joint venture with SITAC MDPL. As of 2020, we have 207 MWp operating solar plants, 450 MWp under construction, and over 1600 MWp under development. We also have 269 MW of operational and 300 MW of under construction wind energy projects. In a nutshell, within less than 4 years, EDF has fulfilled a secured portfolio of 2.8GW of renewables capacity. With the recent expansion of our renewable energy portfolio (1,350 MWp of new solar photovoltaic power plants), we are now among the top 15 project developers in solar and wind in India.
We are also in discussion with the Nuclear Power Corporation of India (NPCIL) for the development and construction of the biggest nuclear plant in the world, with six EPR units totaling close to 10,000 MWe at the Jaitapur site, Maharashtra, India. Additionally, we are currently deploying one of two biggest smart metering contracts in India. This will help provide data supervisory control and management systems, proper installation of 5 million smart meters in the States of Andhra Pradesh and Bihar. Our work will lead to integration of the smart meters with existing billing system of electricity distribution companies, operation and maintenance for a period of 6.5 years.
Our presence in India is part of EDF global CAP 2030 strategy. EDF aims to double its renewable capacity from 2015 to 2030 from 25 to 50 GW and triple its business outside Europe by 2030.

“Shed some light on EDF’s Pulse Start-up programme in India and other countries?”

The thinking behind the EDF Pulse Start-up Awards in India or in other countries where EDF launched this initiative, is to build, strengthen, and promote low carbon innovative local players which are fully aligned with the country’s energy challenges. We strongly consider that the best results to address specific challenges are designed in the field. We launched EDF Pulse in France, the UK, Brazil as well as in Africa. Since the beginning of EDF Pulse in 2014, 1,800 start-ups have applied, and more than 60 projects are being supported by the Group. Our Pulse India initiative is part of EDF’s global strategy in India as the challenge aims to meet the country’s energy challenges and build a sustainable and resilient ecosystem for the future generations. We count India as one of the main growth countries, essential for achieving two of our strategic goals - tripling our business outside Europe and doubling our renewable installed capacity worldwide by 2030. EDF Pulse India programme is a way to connect with the extremely creative and inventive Indian entrepreneurs and support them to find potential business partners for their growth.

“How can start-ups take benefit of the Pulse India programme?”

EDF has significant experience in supporting start-ups. In one hand, the contest allowed us to scan and scout dozens of fascinating and innovative projects and we are happy to get the chance to connect with so many incredibly creative companies that have the skills and the capacity to thrive. On the other hand, start-up will benefit from a comprehensive business development support package that will help them move from project phase to commercial rollout. In that way, EDF Pulse India is a win-win initiative for us and for the startups. To nurture and promote these start-ups in their journey we provide them with access to EDF network and expertise to further develop business opportunities as well as our innovation labs and research & development network to gain requisite technical and practical knowledge. We provide the first winner with a cash prize of 20,000 USD and 2nd and 3rd winner with a price of 5,000 USD. What we offer is more than financial support. We believe that our offering is unique as we challenge the ideas and business models of these start-ups to make them think beyond the current preposition. Additionally, the winners benefit from these opportunities as they get to validate products and test them in live environment, along with customer feedback and consumer insights in order to enable start-ups to commercialize their products.

“What is the criterion of selecting start-ups under this programme and what are the plans for the next edition?”

To select the start-ups, we start with a pre-qualification process wherein the entity applying for the programme should be a Small & Medium Enterprises, founded before 26th April 2020 with less than 500 people. It should be based/Incorporated in India or should have a subsidiary in India with local operational teams as the main shareholder (>50% of the capital). The applying start-up should not have raised more than $5 million and should have a functional prototype that can be demonstrated. Once the start-up clears the pre-qualifying criteria, we begin evaluating them by EDF internal jury members as well Jury members from the Industry in India based on their Innovative solution answering societal challenges, durable and viable business model, team quality and ecosystem connections.
I am happy to say that this first edition of EDF Pulse India was a success. We had received more than 80 applications from the wide variety of start-ups that demonstrated passion, commitment, and incredible creativity to resolve the country’s energy challenges. It is too early for us to determine the characteristics of the second edition, but we are determined to capitalize on the success of the first edition and hope to draw more startups year by year.

“How has been the year 2020 for EDF amidst Covid-19 scenario? Any challenges faced?”

Our key priority during this time was to respect the sanitary measures and protect our employees and contractors. That’s the reason why we have been adjusting with the waves created due to the ongoing pandemic, just like for most businesses. The sanitary crisis has inevitably had certain impact on the execution of our projects but the energy sector is already bouncing back, and we are looking at the future with confidence. Our Indian businesses and administrations did a great job continuing to function as far as possible throughout this crisis. It is during this difficult period that EDF was awarded 3 solar projects of 300 MW each, to be built by 2022. This has helped to push us to the top 15 players in the renewables business in India. What we’d like to stress upon is that the energy sector has the potential to play a major role in the economic revival after the crisis and has the potential of creating quality jobs, especially in the fields such as renewables, smart city and energy efficiency.

“What will be the EDF’s investment and expansion plans in New Year?”

EDF has been present in India for more than 25 years and is always on an outlook for newer opportunities of expansion in India. Our aim is to be one of the key partners in the country’s ambitious energy development program. The latter puts a strong emphasis on building a low-carbon electric system. EDF is active in all areas of the business: generation, transmission, distribution, energy supply and trading, energy services. We are more than happy to bring our know-how and experience in all the fields that are crucial to turn this ambition into reality. To achieve our common goals, we intend to hire many engineers and technicians both in solar and wind energy fields by 2021 and to keep looking for creative and inventive Indian start-ups. We are keen to implement solutions that best fit Indian context.

“Recently, the solar tariff in India dropped to Rs 1.99/kWh in an auction. How do you analyze this as a solar project developer?”

EDF is determined to support India’s low-carbon transition and is confident that the solar rates can keep on deceasing if the price of the equipment continues to decrease and the Indian economy performs with strong rupee, low inflation, low interest rates, and also if no new taxes are imposed on this activity. Worldwide capacity increased by a factor of 66, between 2004 and 2015, from 3.7 GW to 247 GW. Meanwhile, the price of photovoltaic modules was reduced by 90% over a 10-year period.
To achieve the most competitive tariffs in India, the cost of investment must be continuously optimized. This context will allow the implementation in the Indian market of improved technologies such as bifacial and higher efficiency solar panels, more performant wind turbines with higher capacity and larger diameter, or also other innovative solutions, such as molten salt storage solutions for solar electricity or wind and solar hybrid installations combined with energy management systems. These solutions are now being experimented in some countries.
EDF has bid Rs 2.77 per unit (kWh) for its latest wind project in India. Our 1,350 MWp capacity in Rajasthan will also supply power at Rs 2.37 per unit by 2022.The ability to achieve low rates is driven mainly by the each project solar resource, the cost to build a solar farm and the cost of capital in the country. Regarding the cost of solar power production (LCOE), India ranks well compared to other countries. Nevertheless, even lower rates can be obtained in other countries like in the UAE where EDF stroke a record-low recently.

Interview 08/01/2021 by Manu Tayal
 
 
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