New Solar Progress; news from Chennai

Last week I was at Chennai attending the Renergy 2012 event; organized by TEDA.  The exhibition came across targeting not only B2B business in solar but more on the B2C side. Tamil Nadu as a State still experiences 10-14 hours power cuts. To overcome the power cuts, industries and common man are open to using solar when diesel prices are increasing. 


The exhibition saw a lot of local Tamil Nadu players with booths; promoting smaller solar packs, solar lanterns, solar lights. 

This shows the progress the Indian solar industry has made; moving from business sector to reaching common man. Solar has huge potential in India and a part of this needs solar to reach the common man. 


During the conference and while attending some press briefings with industry professionals and Mr.Tarun Kapoor, MNRE; I came across some interesting news that may drive the solar industry for the next few months:

1.  The upcoming 750MW grid connected solar power projects under JNNSM Phase II will have a domestic content requirement. The exact % or MW was not given. MNRE is still in discussion stage with all stakeholders and a decision will be taken soon. 

There have been some speculations but no definite answer has been given by MNRE. 


2,  This 750MW will be under the Viability Gap Funding scheme 


3. The domestic content rule will not differentiate between crystalline or thin film modules


4. Rooftop solar systems/products will be rated/graded. Currently only companies are rated / graded but not the products. This will soon change. The exact system is being worked out. But Mr.Kapoor did hint that maybe they can call Bureau of Energy Efficiency (BEE) to help. 


5. Telecom operators have been asked to turn to green power but are finding it difficult to do this on the ground. The telecom companies are quite open to third parties installing solar/biomass plants to supply green power to the towers. 

The reasons given are the high upfront capital costs and lack of skills in the power sector. 

In addition, there is also the fear of local people turning against telecom operators due to vested interests. 


It was quite an interesting experience to listen to Mr.Kapoor putting down each point in detail and explaining the pros and cons. 


With no distinction between technologies in domestic content; the government has tried its best to close the loop hole (upto an extent) where thin films could be imported. Now on the domestic content side; most projects will be using crystalline modules (based on the fact that we don’t have much of thin film manufacturing).


This will surely benefit solar module manufacturers who are also working as installers and may want to move up the value chain to power producer. So maybe so  a company like Emmvee or Surana  would be happy to bid for some MW under domestic content. 


This arrangement also helps keep foreign companies happy; with Europe and USA against India’s domestic content clause; the division between Indian made products and foreign made products has allowed the Indian government to keep all stakeholders happy (Indian developers, Indian manufacturers, foreign manufacturers, investors, etc)


According to the WTO regulations; the government can promote products from own country if the consumer is the government itself.  The Indian government has used this clause effectively because the Indian government does use a lot of power for its own everyday work. 


Mr. Kapoor also spoke on how many rural places are being dumped with inferior solar products. MNRE is looking at ways to make sure that these solar products are quality products pertaining to a standard. 


A move in this direction is the grading of solar equipments. The idea is still being worked out and an announcement can be expected soon. 

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