NEW DELHI: The trade ministry on Monday recommended imposing a 25 per cent duty on imports of solar cells and modules from China for one year to try to counter what it sees as a threat to domestic solar equipment manufacturing.

Falling prices of solar cells and modules, over 90 per cent of which India imports from China, have triggered a decline in the cost of solar power generation and led Indians increasingly to adopt the technology.

India plans to make renewable power account for 40 per cent of its total installed capacity by 2030, from 20 per cent currently.

The proposed safeguard duty, which would apply for two years in total to imports from China and Malaysia, would be reduced in the second year to 20 per cent for six months and then 15 per cent for six months. The proposed duty is less than the 70 per cent recommended by Indian authorities in January.

The recommendation, contained in a report published by the ministry and to be submitted to the government for approval, is intended to address a serious threat to the domestic solar manufacturing industry from Chinese imports, the directorate general of trade remedies (DGTR) said in the report.

Indian solar cell and module manufacturers said cheap Chinese imports were hurting the domestic industry, while Chinese manufacturers say imports are helping India accelerate its renewable energy adoption programme.

“Solar module manufacturers are facing tough and unhealthy competition from imported modules,” the report quoted the North India Module Manufacturer Association as saying.

The China Chamber of Commerce for Imports and Exports of Machinery and Electronic Products said the “real cause of injury to the domestic industry is aggressive pricing practices of other Indian producers and not imports.”


Trade relations between the two Asian nations have thawed recently despite fears of a trade war elsewhere, with the two sides discussing ways to increase Indian sales of farm products and India pushing China to give access to its software service firms.
However, the trade deficit has widened to $62.9 billion in China’s favour, an over nine-fold increase over the last decade.
India’s share in China’s exports of solar cells and modules rose from about a fifth in the first half of 2016 to two-fifths a year later, the DGTR wrote, adding that China had “started targeting the Indian market more vigorously.”
Some Indian solar power generators, like Avaada Ltd, have expressed reservations about the duties. A safeguard duty would put solar projects worth more than 1000 billion Indian rupees ($14.59 billion) under jeopardy, Avaada told DGTR.
Read more: Govt urges duty on Chinese solar cells, modules

Solar tariffs have again dipped to a low of Rs 2.44 per unit for a third time, after it had jumped by more than a rupee in a recent bid.

Solar tariffs have again dipped to a low of Rs 2.44 per unit for a third time, after it had jumped by more than a rupee in a recent bid. The latest reverse auction for 3,000 MW capacity bid out by the Solar Energy Corporation of India (SECI) saw tariff quote of 2.44 per unit. Previously, the tariffs had hit the lowest rate of R 2.44 per in May 2017 for Rajasthan’s Bhadla projects, while the second was during the reverse auction of 2000 MW capacity last week.

According to sources, ACME Solar bagged a 600 M project with the lowest tariff quote in the recent auction Azure Power, quoting at Rs 2.64 per unit bagged 300 M project, while Canadian Solar has secured 200 MW project with a tariff of Rs 2.70 per unit. Adani’s Mahoba Solar (UP) and ReNew Solar Power have been awarded 300 MW and 500 MW, respectively, all at Rs 2.7 per unit. SBG Cleantech, a joint venture between Japan’ SoftBank Group Corp, India’s Bharti Enterprises and Taiwan’ Foxconn Technology Group, which had bid for the highest capacity of 1800 MW, bagged a contract for 1100 MW quoting tariff of Rs 2.71 per unit.

The Solar Energy Corporation of India will sign 25-year power purchase agreements with the winning bidders an sell the power to electricity distribution utilities. The ceiling tariff for the latest tender has been seen at Rs 2.93 per unit With the latest two bids (2000 MW and 3000 MW), the government has awarded contracts for 5000 MW in single month.

“For the latest bid of 3000 MW, though the lowest is Rs 2.44, the average is over Rs 2.60. This shows that power producers with patience and capital can reach higher tariffs, Gensol Group Director Anmol Jaggi told PTI here. He further said that at current depressed module prices, innovation in module technology and 21 months of execution timeline, there are excellent returns to be made.

According to reports, the recent 1000 MW capacity auction conducted by Uttar Pradesh New and Renewable Energy Development Agency (UPNEDA) discovered tariff of Rs 3.48 per unit which is higher than Rs 2.71 quoted in the auction for the 3000 MW capacity by SECI. Recently, the government has revised its target o adding renewable capacity to 225 GW by 2022 from the earlier 175 GW.

Read more: Solar tariffs dip to a low of Rs 2.44/unit for a...

Rooftop photovoltaic field at ABB India’s Vadodara manufacturing facility.

In the public discourse over providing power to every household by December, 2018, inadequate attention has been paid to microgrids, though they are vital for the success of the government’s overall plan. Already, villages in far-flung areas for which the costs of a grid-connected network are prohibitive, are setting up microgrids to meet their power needs.

A ‘microgrid’ is comprised of a low capacity (sub-10 kW) renewable energy-based generator and a public distribution network which supplies the electricity to a target set of consumers, domestic and commercial.

Growing at a CAGR of 17%, the global microgrid market is expected to be worth
$17.5 bn by 2025, Grand View Research has said. The ministry of new and renewable energy (MNRE) has planned at least 10,000 renewable energy-based micro- and mini- grid projects with an average size of 50 kW— the total capacity of 500 MW is expected to come on stream by 2022.

According to a recent report by ICICI Securities, microgrids are gaining traction due to “problems of an unreliable utility grid, easy access to new off-grid customers, lower capex costs, and lower emissions.”
The Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs recently approved Phase-III of the Off-grid and Decentralised Solar PV (Photovoltaic) Application Programme for achieving additional 118 MWp capacity by 2020. It aims to set up solar power plants of up to 25 kilowatt-peak (kWp) capacity. About 40 lakh rural households are expected to benefit from the move.

Solar microgrids with an aggregate capacity of 1,899 kWp have been installed in 63 villages so far. Under the decentralised solar PV programme, the ministry had funded 30% of the costs of installing microgrid systems in rural areas of the country, Power Minister RK Singh informed Parliament earlier this year.
The Ladakh region has installed 110 solar microgrids with a total capacity of about 21 kW, receiving assistance from Global Himalayan Expedition, an NGO. The Prime Minister’s development package for Jammu & Kashmir, announced in 2017, envisages installation of 20,013 street- lighting systems, 55,000 home lighting systems and solar power plants with aggregate capacity of 2,100 kWp at 401 locations in Kargil — all based on off-grid technology. In Jharkhand, Azure Power would be electrifying 320 households across 11 villages through such grids.

Microgrids are also being used in commercial or industrial parks as back-up power. Swiss firm ABB’s India unit recently set up a solar microgrid with storage facility at its Vadodara plant (pic). Subhag Jain, founding partner at Kaho, a solar lighting systems company, feels “the government should freeze the basic technical specifications of these products to maintain quality standards and make buying of India-made lithium ion batteries mandatory”.

Though the traditional grid enjoys far greater flexibility with respect to demand and supply, technological advancements are making off-grid solutions increasingly viable in remote areas. While skeptics say the microgrid model could face a threat once the main grid becomes smarter, this is unlikely to happen soon. “Demand forecasting is not on a scientific platform yet,” a power sector veteran explains.

Read more: Microgrids: Small steps can make a big impact

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