For the Government of India the first phase of the national solar mission has been a grand success. It not only managed to attract industry to invest in the generation of an energy considered costly, but also dramatically drove down the cost of producing this energy. In its celebration, little did the government realise that a major conglomerate had subverted rules to acquire a stake in the solar mission much larger than allowed legally. Like the big telecom players in the 2G scam, here a company called LANCO Infratech set up front companies that bid for solar power projects under Jawaharlal Nehru National Solar Mission. When the government has adopted a policy of one-project-per-proponent under the mission to encourage competition, LANCO managed to get nine. At the end of the first phase of the solar mission, LANCO has got its hands over 235 MW of allocation, almost a quarter of the total 1,000 MW to be derived from solar radiation under the first phase. And with this it has cornered an assured revenue of about Rs 13,000 crore. The Ministry of New and Renewable Energy and power purchaser NTPC Vidyut Vyapar Nigam could not check this. Their monitoring mechanisms are either not present or have been switched off after the bidding for the first phase. Chandra Bhushan, assisted by Jonas Hamberg, explains how LANCO bypassed ministry rules and where the solar sector is headed.
The truth about solar mission
By Chandra Bhushan and Jonas Hamberg