Kuldeep Kumar Jain, COO-EPC, Vikram Solar Pvt Ltd, believes that the future is bright and the opportunity immense for India to become a global leader in solar energy.
Give us an insight into the solar sector´s growth trajectory.
In the last two years, the renewable energy sector, especially the solar industry has grown in leaps and bounds. Key strategic decisions like taking steps for the abolition of anti-dumping duties and introducing DCR clause actually helped the new government to gain the industry´s confidence. The previous target was revised to 175 GW of renewable energy, including 100 GW of solar energy. The steps taken by Minister of Power Piyush Goyal, guided by the vision of our Honb´le Prime Minister Narendra Modi, are very streamlined. There is now a roadmap in place to know where India will stand in the next seven-eight years. The Government of India has recently set state-wise targets for installation of grid-connected solar rooftop systems as part of its plan to achieve 40 GW of rooftop solar power by 2022. The state nodal agencies, RECI (Renewable Energy Corporation of India) and state power distribution companies will be in charge of implementation of this programme. The current target is quite achievable and with the right policies in place, it will make India a global leader in solar energy in due course of time.
What are the steps taken to fast-track growth?
Describing solar energy as the ultimate solution to increasing energy demand, Prime Minister Narendra Modi recently called upon the scientist fraternity to work towards developing more efficient equipment to revolutionise the sector.
Some of the measures taken include announcing of massive solar parks; setting a target of 40,000 MW of grid-interactive rooftop solar PV plants during the next five years acoss India; decision of pilot cum demonstration project for development of grid-connected solar PV Power Plants on canal banks and canal tops to achieve gainful utilisation of the unutilised area on top of canals and vacant government land along the banks of canals; allocation of 100,000 of solar pumps under Solar Pumping Programme; and PSUs like NTPC planning to accept online bids from parties interested in developing 420 MW of solar photovoltaic (PV) projects in Rajasthan. Also, the MNRE has started working on green power corridors by setting up transmission corridors to supply green power across the national grid.
Very recently, as part of the second phase of the National Solar Mission, Solar Energy Corp. announced that tenders for setting up 500 MW of capacity in Maharashtra and 250 MW in Gujarat will be out soon. Through this, capacity of at least 2 GW will be auctioned to the tune of Rs 21 billion. So, there´s a lot of action.
Which policies of the government have made a significant contribution?
What is a realistic target of projects for 2022, as opposed to the government´s RE target?
The solar sector is attracting huge investments in our country today and as I stated earlier, with the right environment in place, this target is attainable. The state-run nodal agency, Indian Renewable Energy Development Agency (IREDA) is planning to launch a loan scheme to provide loans at 9.9 to 10.75 per cent rate of interest to system aggregators and developers for the development of rooftop solar project development in India. Several tenders are announced almost every week in one state or the other.
How challenging is it to achieve this target?
We feel the biggest challenge is to have a general conducive environment for solar in the country- financial incentives, technological expertise, low-cost business models, uniform policy and regulatory framework. The solar industry is going through a transformation phase and every month, states are coming up with their unique regulatory policies.
Proper funding and allocation of financial resources are absolutely necessary. In addition to this, setting up proper infrastructure, special incentives for solar energy projects, prompt and fast land allotment, reducing project completion time, and separate capital subsidy over and above central subsidy on the project cost for grid tied, off-grid and roof-top solar systems are also much needed.
Though technologically we have become more advanced than we were five years back, new studies show that the India-made solar cells are less efficient and more expensive than imported cells. We need to avoid any environment that could make it difficult for domestic module ecosystem to sustain esp¡ecially because 60 per cent of project cost is attributed to modules. Needless to say, module needs to be of the highest international standards.
Has the ´Make in India´ campaign helped?
The very slogan of ´Make in India´ revolutionised the renewable energy sector, supported by various central as well as individual state government policies. It clearly gave an indication to investors as well as industry at large that the Central Government is serious about promoting clean energy with infrastructure and systems made in our own country. This has already started and there is a tide for the foreign investors, big solar companies and EPC contractors focussing on India for developing solar projects as well as entering into JV with India-based companies.
How much of the amounts pledged do you think will actually translate into action?
The Central Government is taking huge strides in terms of bringing changes in policies and attracting huge investments to support the promotion and implemen¡tation of green energy in India. MNRE is also guiding individual states to come up with their own solar policies and regulations by creating a generally renewable, energy friendly environment across India. During the RE-Invest Expo 2015, a total of more than 293 companies and consortia committed to generate 266 GW of renewable energy over the next five years. We feel that with the positive ambience in place, there will be more projects announced in the coming days that will help the realisation of the target.
What are the prospects for renewables?
The system is in place, policies are being introduced each passing day, new targets being set, states are coming up with their own policies and measures to remove the roadblocks. Necessities like skilled manpower and proper financing options are becoming available, following constructive initiatives taken by MNRE. It is encouraging that many state policies along with a handful of regulations from the SERC have been notified already. Investment is pouring in, but there are many challenges that remain. For one, there needs to be substantial investment in the electrical grid to support the level of renewables, especially distributed generation, which is being proposed. India´s adoption of distributed solar could be unique as much of it might not have to be tied back to the larger grid. We feel the future is bright and the opportunity is immense for India to be a global leader in the renewable energy sector.