Since setting up a target of 20 GW, much publicity has been given in the media about increasing this target to 100 GW solar power generations by 2022. This is the Ambition or aim of Government, but the same Government has no arms and ammunition to hit this target in time. There is a wide gap between policy set and what is being achieved. This article is about the issues related to know how wide this gap is and suggest means and methods to narrow the gap.
What is the basis to set 100 GW when first set target of 20 GW itself could not be achieved? It is like expecting a baby which is just learning to stand and walk to run fast! So, there is chance of baby tripping and get hurt. Increasing the target is a good opportunity for growth of solar industry but what is happening on the other side of this industry is a big question.
Let us look the facts under a microscope rather than telescope.
Facts and Figures:
India’s 1/3 of population has no access to electricity and it will be expensive and time consuming to reach them with transmission towers and cables to light just one bulb in their homes, so solar energy is the best choice.
Technology is available to harness the solar energy and its deployment. As of now Mono cell efficiency is 21% (recent record is 23.15%) and multi cell around 20%. But Indian cell manufacturers are still at 17 to 18% cell efficiency level.
Chinese companies are not ready to sell premium quality cells to Indian module manufacturers as they export these cells to other countries and thus Indian module manufacturers have to rely on low efficiency cells.
For the same real estate of glass, EVA, backsheet using 60 cells, the wattage output can vary from 230 to 260 watt depending on cell efficiency. Further high wattage module saves money in terms of material quantity, number of modules/MW, weight, transportation, structure, land area, installation time which indirectly will benefit the manufacturer and installers.
In 1985 there were only 4 manufacturers in India – CEL, BHEL, and REIL under government and Udaya Semicondutor in private. Even after 30 years the total capacity of these 4 companies put together as module manufacturers have not exceeded 100 MW, Why?
However private companies ventured and today there are nearly 115 module manufacturers with name plate capacity of over 4 GW/annum. But only 40% capacity was utilised last year due to import of modules at lower price than domestic suppliers.
On the one hand PM slogan ‘Make in India’ is opening the doors for Chinese companies to put the base in India- for example Renesola, Hareon Solar, JA Solar, GCL to manufacture modules. Every state government is inviting outsiders to invest in their state beside local module manufacturers expanding their capacity.
Since the start of JNNSM till date only 5 GW is installed in the country ie. 5% of target set. How we can achieve balance 95 GW within 6 years left over? I.e. average of 16 GW module productions per year! Existing module manufacturers with 3GW -3 shift capacity cannot meet the demand. Even doubling the capacity, the local manufacturers cannot go beyond 6GW/annum capacity and this gives room for overseas module and cell companies to invest in India or sell their modules.
Solar mission being national mission, government should involve in using government organisations to undertake high risk and high tech project of manufacturing silicon wafer and cells as part of the mission. Why not BEL, BHEL who have background of manufacturing cells and modules invest jointly to manufacture high efficiency cells for captive consumption – say atleast 2 GW capacity. HMT which is closed now can be converted to manufacture Silicon wafers and ITI which is sick but rich with vast infrastructure can be converted to manufacture 2 GW module production lines. All these government owned companies are in Bangalore with ready building, power and manpower which is great advantage in saving infrastructure cost but need only funding for production equipment and working capital. Other advantage is employment generation and short time required in implementing the project to realise ‘Make in India’ vision. If government is not venturing, let the infrastructure of sick organizations be leased out to investors to produce wafers, cells and modules. Without wafers and cells manufactured in India, the solar mission may not see the good days as these two key materials may be in high demand and lead to short in supply in the coming years.
Mr. Modi has been successful in launching the International Solar Alliance (ISA) at Paris Summit involving 120 countries and laying foundation stone for this in Gurgaon recently. This platform can be used for transfer of technology and also trading of poly silicon, wafers, cells and modules between the member countries to ensure fair price and delivery.
With 115 module manufacturers, there is long wait for certification for nearly 4 months and currently UL and TUV being the only the certifying agencies in the country, they are charging exorbitantly for certification and re certification whenever there is change of any material in the module. This testing can be shared and wait time can be reduced by revitalizing the 4 Regional and nearly 14 state test centres set up by STQC Directorate which are presently underutilized. These test centres already have basic facilities set up to International standards but can be geared up to test and certify the modules to IEC standards by adding additional test equipment. All these test centres being government aided the charges can be nominal and affordable to manufacturers and even to EPC contractors to test the imported modules quality. One time subsidy or incentives can be given to module manufacturers to get their modules certified by these Test centres. The roof top project envisages quality roof top kit which comprises solar panels, inverters and batteries and thus such nationwide established test centres can assure quality product delivered to customer by periodic testing and certification.
As each state has its own solar policy besides national policy, why not the states themselves fund, own and run one module factory in their state of 200 MW capacity and if at least 20 states follow this model , the total capacity can be 4 GW per annum at national level. This will bring self-reliance and fit into make in India’s spirit and logistically cover state PV projects like Rooftop on Government buildings, police stations, schools, health centres, and community centres and generate employment in the state for workers and installers. This will also avoid calling for tender for state government projects. Further this will bring in awareness of Renewable energy and create competition among states to implement clean energy projects. The investment for 200 MW module production line is not a big burden to state. If need be states can levy a ‘solar cess’ or ‘clean energy cess’ on petrol and diesel whenever their prices are reduced !
If such lines are set up in each state , then centre can assist in bulk purchase of solar cells by designated nodal agency who can qualify and bargain with Tier 1 cell manufacturers so that its availability, quality is ensured. Thus centre has control over allocation of cells to state and monitor its usage through the same nodal agency.
With such approach – assuming within 2 years – the private players would have enhanced the capacity to 8 GW from current 4 GW and states module factory contribute to the extent of 4 GW, the total capacity will reach 12 GW still leaving a gap of 4 GW per year to complete the mission at an average rate of 16 GW/annum. This means 25% of module requirement will be still imported but 75% is from locally produced modules – opportunity for all in fairness. Being a National Solar mission the nation as a whole and states as part have to take responsibility in completing the mission along with the private companies.
To encourage roof top installation, the subsidy of 30% can be earmarked to non tax payers up to 2 KW. For tax payers, instead of subsidy the incentive can be in the form of 10% depreciation and 10% tax exemption on invested amount for 5 year period for the installation from 2 KW to 10 KW. This will make sure the panels on each house is looked after by owners and serviced by installers for at least 5 years.
About the Author:
Mr. Chandrasekhara , Director, Four-C-Tron