Renewable energy firm donated Rs 13 crore to BRS before bagging motorsport event in Telangana

The current Congress government has asked why the previous BRS regime did not act against Greenko, which reneged on its agreement to conduct the Formula E race.
Renewable energy firm donated Rs 13 crore to BRS before bagging motorsport event in Telangana

Renewable energy group Greenko donated at least Rs 13 crore to the Bharat Rashtra Samithi through electoral bonds, new data released by the Election Commission of India on March 21 has revealed. 

The group purchased the electoral bonds through several associated companies, including Greenko Energy Projects, Greenko Budhil Hydropower and Greenko Rayala Wind Power. In total, these companies bought bonds worth Rs 39 crore. Of this, Rs 32 crore was encashed: Rs 13 crore by the Bharatiya Janata Party, Rs 13 crore by the BRS, and Rs 6 crore by the YSR Congress between April 2022 and November 2023.

Companies linked to Greenko through common directors or identical registered addresses also purchased electoral bonds. The total value of bonds bought by the Greenko group and these linked companies amounts to Rs 95 crore. Of this, Rs 83 crore was encashed. 

The BRS encashed the largest sum from these bonds, of Rs 37 crore, followed by the YSR Congress, which encashed Rs 33 crore, and the Bharatiya Janata Party, which encashed Rs 13 crore.

Data on who encashed the remaining bonds is not currently available.

This information gains significance in light of the fact that in October 2022, a Greenko subsidiary, Ace Nxt Gen, signed a four-year agreement with the Telangana government, then led by the BRS, and Formula E Operations, the promoters of the Formula E electric car race. Under the agreement, Hyderabad would be the first Indian city to host the prestigious race. The first edition of the race was held in February 2023. But soon after, Ace Nxt Gen withdrew from the agreement; the next edition of the event was subsequently cancelled.

When power in the state passed into the hands of Congress in December 2023, the newly elected government accused the previous BRS regime of financial misconduct in conducting the race. It also demanded to know why it had not taken any action against Ace Nxt Gen, despite the fact that the company had backtracked on the Formula E agreement.

Greenko and linked companies

Project Electoral Bond identified a total of 35 renewable energy companies that bought electoral bonds – of these, 24 could be linked to the Greenko Group through common directors or identical registered addresses. These included companies like Khandke Wind Energy, Pennar Renewables, and Aashman Energy. The value of electoral bonds purchased by all these amounts to Rs 95 crore. 

The Formula E race

The Formula E project was spearheaded by KT Rama Rao, BRS’s working president, and the minister for municipal administration and urban development, along with the IAS officials Arvind Kumar, principal secretary of the department of municipal administration and urban development, and Jayesh Ranjan, principal secretary of the department of information technology and and industries. Ace Nxt Gen was to conduct the event and sell tickets.

Six months before this agreement was signed, the Greenko group bought electoral bonds worth Rs 19 crore during the twentieth and twenty-first phases of their sale. Of this, the group gave Rs 11 crore to BRS, and Rs 8 crore to BJP. The other companies linked to Greenko gave Rs 23 crore to BRS during the same period, and Rs 7 crore to the YSR Congress. Anil Kumar Chalamasetty, the director of Greenko is the younger brother of Sunil Chalamasetty, the YSR Congress Lok Sabha candidate from Kakinada constituency.

Soon after the first edition of the Formula E race was held, in February 2023, Ace Nxt Gen backed out of the project. A new bipartite agreement was signed in October 2023 between the Hyderabad Metropolitan Development Authority and Formula E. 

In January 2024, a month after the Congress came to power in the state, Deputy Chief Minister Mallu Bhatti Vikramarka accused the former government of having flouted rules while entering into the Formula E agreement, and of making a payment of Rs 55 crore to Formula E without the requisite approval from cabinet or the minister concerned. It also asked why no action was taken against Greenko, despite the fact that the company had broken its four-year agreement to organise the race.

The edition of the race that was to be held in February this year was cancelled; the series’ co-founder noted that they faced  “economic sort of challenges” with Greenko. He observed, “Sometimes, the suppliers stopped working, some works were delayed. Some standards for Formula E were not respected.”

Greenko’s turnaround with the Andhra Pradesh government 

In 2019, the YS Jagan Mohan Reddy-led YSR Congress had alleged that renewable energy deals that Greenko had signed during the previous government, under the Telugu Desam Party, had caused major losses to Andhra Pradesh’s energy distribution companies. 

The state government constituted a cabinet sub committee in June to revisit the state’s solar and wind energy tariffs – it went ahead even after the Central power ministry issued an advisory in July against reducing tariffs. The Central ministry argued that the move could indicate that power purchase agreements in India are not honoured, which could “dry up” foreign investments that the sector had been receiving.

Chief Minister Jagan Mohan Reddy wrote to the prime minister that same month, noting that under the deals, the previous state government had assured renewable energy companies like Greenko that it would purchase power from them for prices as high as Rs 5.94 per unit. It added that three companies, including Greenko, had secured the bulk of contracts with the state government when it came to selling wind power. The letter alleged that these three companies had received “undue benefits” as a result of these contracts.

Several wind and solar developers also filed appeals against the move to reevaluate the energy tariffs. In March 2022, the Telangana High Court ruled in favour of the companies, directing the state distribution companies to honour the tariffs that were decided upon when the agreements were signed, and clear pending payments within six weeks.

A month later in April, the Greenko group bought bonds worth Rs 16 crore, while companies linked to the group bought bonds worth another Rs 41 crore. Of this, Rs 7 crore was encashed by YSR Congress, and Rs 26 crore by the BRS. 

The following month, Greenko co-signed a $16 billion contract with the Andhra Pradesh government, headed by the YSR Congress, during the annual World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland to set up solar, wind and hydropower projects in the state. The following year, during the twenty-sixth and twenty-ninth phases of sale of electoral bonds, Greenko and its linked companies purchased Rs 32 crore worth of bonds, of which Rs 26 crore were encashed by YSR Congress, Rs 5 crore by BJP and Rs 1 crore by BRS.

Donations to the BJP

On July 2, 2022, Greenko Energy Projects purchased Rs 8 crore in electoral bonds, which were encashed by the BJP the same month. Later that month, on July 26, Greenko ZeroC Private Limited inked a memorandum of understanding with the Oil and Natural Gas Corporation to “jointly pursue opportunities in Renewables, Green Hydrogen, Green Ammonia and other derivatives of green hydrogen”.

The MoU, which is valid for two years, was signed in New Delhi by ONGC Director Onshore Anurag Sharma and Greenko CEO Anil Kumar Chalamalasetty. Union Minister for Petroleum and Natural Gas Hardeep Singh Puri was present at the meeting.

The next year, on April 10, 2023, Greenko MP01 IREP Private Limited purchased bonds for the BJP amounting to Rs 5 crore. It made these purchases two months after Greenko ZeroC signed an agreement with German energy company Uniper, under which the former would supply the latter with green ammonia from a facility in Kakinada, Andhra Pradesh. The agreement was signed on February 7, 2023 during the India Energy Week in Bengaluru in the presence of Hardeep Singh Puri. The India Energy Week is the BJP-led Union government’s flagship energy event held under the patronage of the ministry of petroleum and natural gas. 

In the thirtieth phase of electoral bond sale, between January 2 and January 11, 2024, Greenko did not purchase any electoral bonds.   

Project Electoral Bond contacted the Greenko group and companies linked to it, as well as the BRS, YRS Congress Party and the BJP, to seek a response to the new data released by the Election Commission of India. This story will be updated if they respond.

This report is part of a collaborative project involving three news organisations – Newslaundry, Scroll, The News Minute – and several independent journalists.

Project Electoral Bond includes Aban Usmani, Anand Mangnale, Anisha Sheth, Anjana Meenakshi, Ayush Tiwari, Azeefa Fathima, Basant Kumar, Binu Karunakaran, Dhanya Rajendran, Divya Aslesha, Jayashree Arunachalam, Jisha Surya, Joyal George, M Rajshekhar, Maria Teresa Raju, Nandini Chandrashekar, Neel Madhav, Nikita Saxena, Parth MN, Pooja Prasanna, Prajwal Bhat, Prateek Goyal, Pratyush Deep, Ragamalika Karthikeyan, Raman Kirpal, Ravi Nair, Rokibuz Zaman, Sachi Hegde, Safwat Zargar, Shabbir Ahmed, Shivnarayan Rajpurohit, Siddharth Mishra, Sumedha Mittal, Supriya Sharma, Tabassum Barnagarwala and Vaishnavi Rathore.

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