India is one of the largest markets for Solar Energy worldwide. With cut throat price competition for tariff based and EPC projects, developers are often forced to aggressively seek out for the cheapest products in the market; thereby compromising quality which adversely affects investor’s return. Over the years, quality issues have been rampant, not just in Solar Panels and inverters, but also for DC Cables, Module Mounting Structures and other BoS. (Remember, safety and energy yield is as good as the weakest link). Therefore it is imperative for the government of India (MNRE) to look at stricter product quality certification guidelines in the solar sector.
Government, with good intent, has taken a welcome proactive step towards bringing quality into focus by insisting on compulsory BIS certification for Solar Modules starting from this year. However, Solar Modules and Inverters, which are already tested in internationally respected labs such as UL and TUV based on global solar and electrical standards (IEC), are retested in India to almost similar standards for BIS. With limited number of approved test labs, this contributes to waiting times and higher costs per model. For instance, a cutting edge, Innovative Solar Panel model newly launched across the globe, now takes 5 to 6 months to be commercially available in India, with added higher testing costs.
Much more than government led compulsory testing and certifications, the need of the hour is to self-correct as an industry. We must educate the project investors, EPCs and end customers for the need for quality for solar components, thereby ensuring optimal Return on Investments for their projects. It is a matter of sustainability and long term survival for all the stakeholders. When all we ask for is “price”, “price”, and “price”, it is unrealistic to expect the government to solve quality standards issues!
Energy of the sustainable future – solar, has always been in the news in India. We are looking forward to solar as future energy and as a field that creates immense job opportunities. India has set an ambitious target of 100 GW of solar capacity across the country by 2022
Going forward, the government has brought strict quality norms for solar equipment and components, allowing its sale only if registered and approved by the Bureau of Indian Standards (BIS).
As per the norms, the equipment that does not carry the “Standard Mark” of BIS can be destroyed. According to the renewable energy ministry’s Solar Photovoltaic, Systems, Devices and Components Goods (Requirements for Compulsory Registration) Order, 2017, “No person shall by himself or through any person on his behalf manufacture or store for sale, import, sell or distribute goods which do not conform to the Specified Standard and do not bear the Standard Mark as notified by the Bureau for such goods from time-totime after obtaining registration from the Bureau,” the order said.
The order excludes the export goods manufactured from India. Authorities can seek information, inspect the work premises of the manufacturer or seller, confiscate goods, collect samples from the factory to ensure that the equipment is being tested in a laboratory established or recognized by BIS.
“No manufacturer shall refuse to give any information lawfully demanded from him… or conceal, destroy, mutilate or deface any book or document relating thereto in his possession or control,” it said.
Now the real question is “Do We Need Stricter Product Certification Guidelines And Quality Standards For The Solar Sector?” I think for many reasons yes. This can encourage domestic manufacturers to bring in quality solar equipment instead of resorting to importing inferior quality Chinese solar equipment.
The lack of regulations for product quality certification, intense competition, and absence of requisite awareness have only emboldened the problem.
The increasingly fierce competition in the solar industry has resulted in low prices for PV installers. Installers are now offering extremely aggressive tariffs as low as ₹2.5-3.9)/kWh. At these low rates, the use of poor quality materials has become widespread. This also needs to be tackled.
The compromise in quality can be seen in installations across the country. For example, the cables used in rooftop solar systems can often be found to be thin in diameter and of poor quality.
Earlier, the domestic manufacturers used to complain about how they are being priced out by cheap Chinese imports and have also sought anti-dumping duties to Chinese imports. We should encourage foreign firms to set up their factories in India, in order to strengthen our economy and to become one of the biggest markets for solar equipment.
BIS certification process has to be made easier, so that international Tier-1 products can easily pitch in to the market and sell their products. Government should also make sure that it is not a mere money making activity. Government should be keen in implementation too by setting international standard laboratories and make sure process of testing and labeling to be inline with international standards.