India’s renewable energy expansion programme is one of the largest in the world.1 It ranks 3rd globally in terms of installed renewable energy capacity.2 Policy and regulatory support to incentivise both demand and supply have been a key driver of the rapid growth in the renewable energy sector. One such support measure has been in the form of renewable purchase obligations (RPO) which require obligated entities such as discoms to purchase a minimum percentage of electricity from renewable energy (RE) sources.3 RPOs are mandated by the Electricity Act (2003).
However, RE resources potential is not evenly spread across the country. Moreover, obligated entities also face difficulty in procuring power from RE sources due to its variable nature. It is here that the concept of renewable energy certificates (RECs) assumes significance. RECs are ‘green tradeable certificates’ that represent the environmental attributes of power generated from RE but not the actual power itself.4 RECs allow the obligated entities to meet their RPO without actual procurement of RE-generated power.5 They can be purchased on the national energy exchanges such as Indian Energy Exchange (IEX) and Power Exchange of India Limited (PXIL) by the obligated entities like discoms to meet their RPO targets. Purchase of RECs for voluntary reasons also takes place, but volumes are negligible. The figure below depicts the relationship between RECs and RPOs.
RECs and RPOs are complementary to each other and the key features of the two are highlighted below:
Compliance of obligated entities with RPO targets has been consistently poor. For example, the RPO target for the financial year 2019-20 was set at 17.5 per cent but the achievement on pan-India basis was merely 12.73 per cent and compliance is less than 55 per cent of the target for about 20 states6. Poor compliance with RPO targets has negatively impacted the REC market as one of the main end-use of RECs is to facilitate RPO compliance. RECs are flexible instruments and are also relevant to companies committing to 100 per cent energy consumption from green sources.