The Tribunal said a solar power park developer is responsible for operating and maintaining the transmission within the solar park. The solar park developer is also responsible for any damage to equipment from over-injection into the grid by solar power generators. Hence, the park developer has the right to issue directions to solar power developers within the park as per the contract’s provisions to protect the equipment.
Saurya Urja Company of Rajasthan, a joint venture company of the Rajasthan government and IL&FS, has developed a solar park at Bhadla in Rajasthan.
ACME Jodhpur Solar Power and ACME Rewa Solar Power developed two 100 MW solar projects at the Bhadla solar park. The solar generators said the substation’s capacity is 625 MVA with an additional margin of 125 MW. Therefore, they developed the infrastructure capable of evacuating over 20% of the contracted capacity during peak hours.
In December 2020, RERC directed Saurya Urja not to obstruct solar power generators from evacuating the generated solar up to 110% of the project’s rated capacity. The Commission said that if the power injection created grid disturbance, the state load dispatch center or distribution companies could issue directions to the solar developers.
Saurya Urja filed a petition with APTEL claiming that the Commission passed the order without having jurisdiction.
It told APTEL that RERC passed the order under Section 86 of the Electricity Act 2003, according to which the state commission can adjudicate disputes between distribution licensees (DISCOMs) and generating companies.
However, Saurya Urja argued that it is not a licensee per the Electricity Act 2003. Hence, the Implementation and Support Agreement contract executed between the solar park developer and solar generators is outside the jurisdiction of the state commission.
The company requested APTEL to clarify if the state commission can adjudicate disputes between a solar generating company and a solar park developer. It also sought to know if the Implementation and Support Agreement (ISA) is binding on the solar park developer and solar generator.
The petitioner also wanted APTEL to clarify whether the solar park developer can direct solar generating companies not to over-inject power into the transmission infrastructure built by the solar park developer.
ACME said Saurya Urja challenged the Electricity Act and the regulatory commissions’ jurisdiction based on a private contract. The Electricity Act and the commissions’ jurisdiction could not be brushed aside based on a private contract.
The solar generators contended that the Electricity Act governs the solar park, and the jurisdiction of every authority remains whether it is inside or outside the solar park. It also submitted that grid management is the exclusive responsibility of the state load dispatch center (SLDC).
The subsidiaries of ACME said they had submitted the daily solar energy injection schedule for SLDC’s approval. The SLDC never found fault with the so-called excess generation.
In its analysis, APTEL noted that the President of India approved a program to develop at least 25 solar parks with a capacity of 500 MW or above. The program aims to develop a total solar capacity of over 20 GW from 2014-15 to 2018-19. According to the program, the decision of an arbitrator appointed by the Ministry of New and Renewable Energy should be final and binding in case of any disputes.
“The ISA agreement signed between both parties outlined the procedure for dispute resolutions. The agreement said any dispute between both parties should be referred to Solar Energy Corporation of India (SECI). SECI should provide its decision within 30 days from the dispute’s date referred to SECI. If the SECI’s decision aggrieves the party, it holds right to refer the matter to arbitration,” APTEL observed.
The state commission failed to bear in mind that the dispute brought before it is not covered under Section 86 of the Electricity Act. Therefore, the state commission is not empowered to adjudicate the present dispute.
APTEL observed that the parties had signed the ISA agreement consciously and with an understanding of the facts. According to the agreement, the solar park developer holds the right to restrict excess generation beyond the rated capacity in the agreement.
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Harsh is a staff reporter at Mercom India. Previously with Indian Express, he has covered general interest stories. He holds a Masters Degree in Journalism from Symbiosis Institute of Media and Communication, Pune.