The Indian government has introduced a scheme that will offer subsidies from its USO fund for mobile infrastructures providers implementing pilot projects with renewable energy solutions such as solar and wind.
According to a document, issued by the Department of Telecom of the Ministry of Communications and Information Technology, calling for expression of interest (EOI) from infrastructure providers, “the objective of the scheme is to establish the technical feasibility and financial viability for solar/solar-wind hybrid renewable energy systems in shared mobile infrastructure sits in rural/remote areas.” The scheme is being launched in 20 areas around the country and is only available to companies who have installed at least 8,000 cell sites previously.
Under the scope of the work described in the document, pilot projects would involve the infrastructure provider providing requisite renewable energy infrastructure with the assistance of a renewable energy vendor who shall provide technological support and execute the installation work as directed by the infrastructure provider.
The DoT will provide up to 5 millions Rupees (US$105K) of financial assistance per pilot project. The subsidy support from the government would be up to a maximum of 75% of the project cost.
The scheme leans heavily in favour of solar power solutions. While infrastructure providers looking at hybrid systems MUST select from a list of approved vendors, those looking at solar-based solutions can select from a list provided by the Ministry of New and Renewable Energy, or select their own. There seem to be no provisions for wind power-only deployments.
There are other conditions for the scheme, including its availability to only infrastructure providers (not the operators themselves) and its applicability only to shared sites. The infrastructure provider must also get written consent from three operators sharing the site to be eligible for the subsidy.
Tower companies in India, including Reliance Infratel, GTL, National Information Technologies and Vodafone Essar, will qualify for the scheme. Each pilot project will have 12 weeks to complete installation from the date it is signed, and must run for 12 months before “complete subsidy support in released.”
Interest in the scheme remains unclear. The DoT extended the submission deadline for expression of interest a whole month to the end of July, which could indicated a lack of initial interest, or perhaps, conversely, there was too much interest and applicants needed more time. The DoT has not released any figures on the number of submissions.