Mr. Manu Karan, Vice President, CleanMax Solar perceives net-metering as the biggest challenge and MSME segment as a untapped opportunity in rooftop solar sector.
What have been some of the recent developments at your organisation? Could you brief us about your upcoming projects?
CleanMax Solar is the sustainability partner of choice for leading corporates and industries in Asia. We have offices and highly skilled professional teams across India, the Middle East, and South-East Asia. Over the years we have completed over 400 projects for over 130+ corporates, and are constantly looking to venture into newer sectors and markets.
Our cumulative operating capacity is over 550+MW as of 2019 across rooftop projects and open access solar farms. We are expanding our solar farms to five to six more states in India by mid – 2020 apart from Tamil Nadu and Karnataka and currently, we are also developing a 150MW solar farm in Sirsa district of Haryana. Earlier this year, we had raised INR 275 crore in equity funding from UK Climate Investments LLP (UKCI) managed by Macquarie.
Internationally, we have ventured into the UAE and Thailand markets. Currently in UAE we have project portfolio of over 20MWp and in Thailand over 8MWp. These markets are scaling very rapidly for CleanMax and we expect over one third of our rooftop solar volumes to come from these markets in the next financial year.
Financing is still a major issue in the sector? What is your policy wishlist to encourage investments in the sector?
Financing is no doubt one of the biggest challenges of the sector; since renewable energy is a capital intensive business, hence the availability of funds and cost of capital is crucial. In terms of solar-specific lending, in recent times, the lending environment has improved with banks compared to last year, where raising debt for the solar segment was challenging, however, since then, there have been positive changes, and banks are less sceptical about lending today. That being said, we still require a long term and stable national level policies that will help attract long term capital in the sector and accelerate India’s adoption of decarbonised electricity in the fight against global warming.
What do you think are the untapped opportunities which need to be explored in the solar sector?
We are observing an abundance of opportunity in the micro, small and medium enterprises (MSME) segment. These enterprises can become potential clients for solar energy uptake provided credit risk issues are addressed. A well aligned policy would need to recognise the specific constraints of this segment and careful analysis must be catered to. Once those obstacles are removed, then these companies can harness the cheap and plentiful energy of the sun, to the benefit of the entire country. We feel that MSME is a low hanging fruit which can easily generate a huge demand for rooftop solar in the country.
List some of the challenges you come across while developing a project?
There are multiple challenges that elude the system currently. For rooftop solar adoption, net-metering is posing to be the biggest challenge in the current economy. The objective of the net metering policy was to make solar electricity more accessible while ensuring that the surplus power generated is supplied back to the grid. But the current policy framework is restricting the growth of rooftop solar on account of the 1 MW cap on system size. An increasing number of companies are looking at independent energy generation options such as rooftop solar to meet their energy needs; however, most of these commercial and industrial consumers need more than 1 MW of electricity to meet their requirements. So the removal of the cap on the size of the project will accelerate the adoption of rooftop solar in India and help the sector reach the lofty goal of 40GW.
In case of solar farms, development of the transmission infrastructure is of crucial importance for the easy banking of solar power. The recent Power Ministry approval in July 2019, on the early regulatory nod for transmission schemes for 66.5 GW renewable energy generations in order to fast-track green projects in the country was an order in the right direction. As the gestation period of Renewable Energy projects is much shorter in comparison to the implementation period of the transmission facilities, it is necessary that the present system of transmission planning and implementation for Renewable Energy projects to be carried out in fast track.
What are the highlights of your company’s commitment to social and environmental responsibility?
Our business model in its entirety is dedicated to environmental and social responsibility. With the current operating capacity of CleanMax Solar at 550 MW (i.e 5,50,000 kW) helps in the abatement of 7,92,000 tons of carbon emissions; this equals to planting around 1.90 Crore trees – which is a humongous contribution to significantly improve the air quality of the country while being socially responsible and being committed to the cause.