The current crisis has exposed the country’s fragile power infrastructure, and there have been renewed calls for investing in the solar sector
There is no denying the fact that India is one of the fastest-growing economies in the world and aspires to join the ranks of developed countries in the near future. However, on 30th July, the country’s “emerging superpower” dreams encountered a setback when almost half of the nation plunged into total darkness as it witnessed, according to Guardian, the “worst blackout in history,” which affected nearly 700 million people. Furthermore, power grids collapsed again on 31st July, which left train stations, hospitals and working miners trapped without electricity. The next morning, The Economic Times ran the headline: "Superpower India, RIP."
The current crisis has exposed the country’s fragile power infrastructure, and there have been renewed calls for investing in the solar sector. India mainly relies on centralized coal-fire power to generate its electricity, which limits the nation’s flexibility to meet any increase in demand. Observers are hopeful that the crisis could trigger a “solar revolution.”
An international PV manufacturing summit was organized on 1st - 2nd August in New Delhi, India, that brought together government officials, PV manufacturers and suppliers such as Karl Brutsaert from First Solar, Inc. (NASDAQ: FSLR), and Sudheer Kumar from Moser Baer Solar, as well as representatives from DuPont (NYSE: DD) and SunEdison, a solar-EPC division of MEMC Electronic Materials, Inc. (NYSE: WFR). The summit also called for the creation of the Indian Solar Action Forum (I-SAF), which would bring together all the stakeholders from the country’s solar sector “to build an actionable agenda with a charter to expand India’s solar economy significantly.”
In another development, the Hindu has reported that Jim Hughes, CEO of First Solar, has said that his company might construct a manufacturing plant in India. In a recent conference call, the CEO was asked whether he thought the manufacturing rules in the India were risky for his firm. Hughes was quoted as saying, “Ultimately, if the kind of visible demand that we expect develops in that market, that is likely a market where we would look to put manufacturing in place.”
However, he pointed out that the local manufacturing conditions only apply to the c-Si sector, not to thin-film modules that are manufactured by First Solar. However, even if they are legislated in the near future, he stated that it’s “not a risk that we spend a lot of time worrying about.” He further explained that “when the demand for PV increases any such policies [that require local manufacturing] would actually be an advantage, not a disadvantage." However, he said that “an open market place is in everybody’s best interest.”
The company might opt for joint ventures with local firms to develop PV projects in the region, and an official announcement in this regard might come in the near future. While talking to analysts, Mr. Hughes said, “In India, we are in discussions on a whole series of joint venture relationships and I think over the remainder of the year we will get to a point of public announcement on some of those.”
REC Solar, which we featured in a recent interview, has just announced an appointment of Mr. Shailendra Mohan Bebortha as managing director for REC Systems India. In addition to the incorporation of REC Systems in India, REC announced the opening of a new REC Solar Sales office in Noida, near New Delhi, India.
Mr. Bebortha is expected to build the organization and execute REC’s strategy to expand the market for utility-scale solar power plants in the country. REC estimates that India has a potential for 12GW of solar projects by 2016, which is in line with the National Solar Mission launched by the Indian Government in 2010. Their aim is to create a solar capacity of 20GW by the year 2020.
In addition to above-mentioned companies, Trina Solar (NYSE: TSL) and China Sunergy Co Ltd (NASDAQ: CSUN) are expected to look for partnerships in EPC to sell their modules. In some of the reports Trina was speculated take on the role that BP Solar used to play in the country.
The Indian state of Uttar Pradesh (U.P.) has published (August 2012) a draft solar policy titled “The Uttar Pradesh Solar Power Policy 2012” offering 1GW of development for experienced domestic developers, including international operators. The developers need to have prior capital investments, ranging from INR100m (EUR1.5m) to INR500m (EUR7.7m) depending on the size of the project bid for, on grid connected solar power projects. This reduces eligible entities in India to only those developers, who were commissioned for projects under the NSM and other policies. International developers especially those from America, Germany and China who fulfill this criterion shall be eligible to bid for a project under the U.P. solar policy.