January 29, 2015 / 12:16 PM / in 4 years

NTPC bars foreign bids for three solar projects

A private security guard walks between rows of photovoltaic solar panels inside a solar power plant at Raisan village near Gandhinagar, in Gujarat, February 11, 2014. REUTERS/Amit Dave/Files

NEW DELHI (Reuters) - State-run utility NTPC has restricted the building of three new solar power projects to domestic manufacturers, even as India pushes for overseas companies to lead fresh investments into a renewable energy drive.

Only Indian companies will be allowed to bid for the projects, which will have a combined 750 megawatts (MW) capacity, a spokeswoman for NTPC said on Thursday.

The spokeswoman declined to say why foreign companies were not able to bid, and stressed that Indian subsidiaries of foreign manufacturers would be free to participate in its future solar projects.

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s ambitious plans for solar won the support of President Barack Obama last weekend, with the U.S. leader offering to help finance an expansion of solar energy during a visit to New Delhi.

Modi wants foreign companies to lead $100 billion of fresh investment to raise India’s solar energy capacity 33 times to 100,000 MW by 2022, providing big opportunities for U.S. companies like First Solar and SunEdison.

However, the U.S. and India are embroiled in a battle at the World Trade Organisation over state support for solar power. The U.S. said last year that domestic content requirements (DCR) in India’s national solar programme were in breach of WTO rules.

Jasmeet Khurana at consultancy Bridge To India played down NTPC’s decision, arguing that the DCR were restricted to a small portion of the government’s solar target. He expects a majority of the planned expansion will be open to overseas firms.

NTPC, which produces a quarter of the country’s electricity, largely through thermal plants, plans to commission more than 11,500 MW of renewable energy by 2032.

Reporting by Tommy Wilkes and Aman Shah in Mumbai; Editing by Vincent Baby

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