Long-term prospects of India’s clean energy and infrastructure industries are bright as seen in the quick recovery in the latter half of FY21 following the first wave of the covid pandemic, investors and experts said at the Mint India Investment summit on 30 April.

One reason for worry, however, is a potential increase in cases pending in courts and regulators as the second wave of the pandemic hits institutions.

Kavita Saha, senior principal – infrastructure, CPP Investments, said entities like theirs take a long-term view on investments.

“The long-term growth story and the overall resilience of India are intact. Yes, it has taken a knock. It will take concerted efforts to recover and set it back on the growth trajectory. But the reprieve we had in the interim—the economy came back quite fast—sets the stage for our confidence that the economy will come back on the (growth) trajectory,” said Saha.

Citing the case of toll roads, Saha said that toll collections were suspended at all national highways for some time last year, which took quite some time before regional lockdowns were lifted and business started in a slow manner.

“If you look at the kind of recovery that roads had in terms of vehicles coming back and toll getting collected, it was almost miraculous,” said Saha. Toll roads are an important part of CPP’s overall investment, not only in India but across the globe.

Experts also underscored the importance of quick decision-making by central and state governments in project execution during the pandemic.

“In a situation like the pandemic, decision-making has to be at the speed of light,” said P. Anbalagan, chief executive officer of Maharashtra Industrial Development Corporation (MIDC).

Anbalagan said projects have to be executed on mission mode and, in the case of renewables, the policies of the state have to be in tandem with those of the Centre.

Abhishek Bansal, director – energy, Actis, said the pandemic’s impact has been benign on the investor’s portfolio and the renewables and road sectors. From a commercial viewpoint, Bansal said the investor’s receivables were better during the pandemic because a lot of power distribution companies were given loans by the government.

“In terms of the future, we continue to be positive on India’s infrastructure sector,” said Bansal.

Actis has been bullish on India’s renewable energy industry. “We are now trying to expand beyond renewables. We will continue to invest very actively in renewable energy and transportation sectors like road projects over the next five to 10 years,” said Bansal.

Vinod Giri, managing partner – direct investments at National Investment and Infrastructure Fund (NIIFL), an investment platform anchored by the government, too said that the long-term growth story of India’s renewable energy industry remains intact.

“Despite the fact that industries for most of 2020 were really not operating at maximum capacity and the way we have seen demand coming back in the September and March quarters (of FY21), we have been back to the (power) consumption level related to the previous year on parameters of peak demand or average consumption,” said Giri.

According to Neeraj Menon, partner at law firm Trilegal, one area of concern is the impact the second wave of the pandemic could have on institutions like the judiciary and regulators.

“The last four weeks have seen various regulators literally shutting down. This did not happen in the first wave. Regulators were operating online and now you have courts and regulators shutting down,” he said.

“That is worrisome because that will lead to very serious backlog over the existing humongous backlog that we have,” said Menon.

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