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Let there be light

Let there be light
India is among the most promising emerging solar markets in the world while also being, with 1.2 billion residents, the world’s second-most populous country. However, energy supply remains a huge challenge with diesel motors often used to produce power, especially in agriculture and private households. To ensure long-term energy supply and encourage environmental protection in the country, the government has set ambitious goals. By 2022, the installed photovoltaic (PV) output is to be increased by a total of 100 GW. With some 300 days of sunshine per year and daily insolation levels of four to seven kilowatt hours (kWh) per square meter, India is ideally suited for solar energy production and is now turning words into deeds. In the first half of the year, the country has already built significantly more installations than expected. This year, new PV installations with a total output of around 2.5 GW are projected, more than doubling the output of 2014. About 4-6 GW of additional output are projected for 2016. This would put India in fourth place among the world’s top solar markets – a sunny outlook for the Indian solar industry. 

Meanwhile, the seventh Intersolar India was held at the Bombay Exhibition Centre (BEC) in Mumbai in November with over 200 exhibitors from 12 countries and exhibition space being booked out several weeks before the exhibition began. Various The three-day event witnessed various companies presenting their innovations in the areas of photovoltaics, PV production technologies, energy storage systems and solar thermal technologies. More than 100 experts from research, industry and associations discussed the opportunities and challenges for the Indian solar industry at the conference, which highlighted also the Intersolar AWARD for Solar Projects in India. 

While Energy storage was also one of the topics discussed at the Intersolar India Conference, which is taking place in parallel, this year’s event also witnessed a special exhibition Electrical Energy Storage India being held alongside Intersolar India for the first time to – as a leading platform for storage technologies in India – illuminate the potential of innovative energy storage systems for future energy supply and grid stability in India. In addition, the conference program also addressed the prospects for the Indian solar market, large-scale PV installations, financing, as well as project development and off-grid power supply. More than 100 renowned international speakers had been expected at the conference. 

One of the highlights of the event was the 4th Indo-German Energy Symposium titled Solar PV Rooftop-Market Development in India and International Trends – a side event accompanying the Intersolar India and which shed light on the market for roof-mounted installations in India, the current financing situation and the developments in self consumption of solar power. The speakers included Claudia Arce, Director for South Asia, Afghanistan and Pakistan of the KfW Development Bank, Germany and Tarun Kapoor, Joint Secretary at the Indian Ministry of New & Renewable Energy (MNRE). Other speakers on the first day include Susanne Dorasil, Division Head at the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development and Dr. Ashvini Kumar, (Solar) Director of the Solar Energy Corporation of India, whose presentations included taking a closer look at India’s plans for growth in the solar sector.    The event witnessed Huwaei announcing its partnership with Waaree Energies Ltd, which is ranked the number one Indian solar PV panel manufacturer and a leading player across the Solar PV value chain.  Waaree Energies Ltd also placed an order with Huwaei for 100 mW of String Inverter solution and Smart PV solution for its projects in India, even as both companies emphasised their commitment for a long and fruitful association in the Indian market through providing provide technologically advanced solutions. 

Meanwhile, Tarun Kapoor, Joint Secretary of India’s Ministry of New and Renewable Energy (MNRE) told delegates at Intersolar India 2015 said that the MNRE will be increasing subsidies for rooftop solar from 15 per cent to 30 per cent in the next week, although this will not be the case for commercial and industrial rooftop. Kapoor, in his keynote address, announced the return to a 30 per cent subsidy for rooftop solar after the previous reduction to 15 per cent caused stagnation in the market. “We will be providing 30 per cent subsidy for domestic, social sector, offices, and government -- minus commercial and industrial. We plan to continue with the subsidy programme for some time,” he said while adding to another question “So far I won’t say that we’ve really succeeded in this area. We should have gone into 100s of megawatts by now.”

For the private sector and industrial rooftop solar, Kapoor said India is introducing a large programme of low-cost loans where the Indian Renewable Energy Development Agency (IREDA) has come out with a 9.75 per cent loan scheme, and that he expects the State Bank of India to introduce a scheme with even lower interest rates. “With easy availability of credit, we expect the industrial and commercial sector will also grow.”

However, Kapoor admitted that there is an issue with rooftop connectivity with India’s infamously debt-laden distribution companies (Discoms), which he claimed are more comfortable with ground-mount solar PV because they directly handle and sell the power in these cases. “Discoms probably still don’t like too much self-consumption in the country, but I think gradually that will change and we will see higher growth in roof-mounted,” he said, adding “Prices for ground-mount have also come down more quickly than for rooftop. However, in the next two-to-three months, India will commission another two or three hundred megawatts of rooftop power supply and 1GW expected to be installed next year. I expect growth to be much faster with states and Discoms playing a major role in pushing this sector.” He said the government of India is also launching rooftop pilots through the Solar Energy Corporation of India (SECI), which will tender another 250 MW of rooftop “very shortly” after having recently tendered 50 MW.

Bridge to India consultant Mudit Jain, told the gathering that the previous 15 per cent rooftop subsidy was not workable as it was not lowering the costs for the consumer. “If you are getting any kind of subsidy, it should be in the higher range. The subsidy was not necessary for the industrial and commercial sectors, as rooftop solar in these areas has already reached grid parity,” he said. Bridge to India also released its ‘India Solar Rooftop Map 2016’ at Intersolar India, claiming that total installed capacity of rooftop as of 31 October 2015 was 525 MW, and estimating that 455mW will be added in the next 12 months. The consultancy firm also projects that 6.5 GW of rooftop will be installed in India by 2020.

Residential rooftop solar has still not reached grid parity in any state, but in the state of Maharashtra for example where the cost of energy is very high, rooftop solar is approaching parity. The states of Tamil Nadu (76 MW) and Maharashtra (52 MW) lead and a boom in rooftop solar in India could play a significant role in propelling the country towards its 2022 solar target of 100GW.

The event’s discussions registered a varying amount of statements from the gathered delegates on the solar scenario. “In 2010, the world solar market was about 17 GW and the prediction was very optimistic about it growing to 100 GW by 2020. However, 2014 witnessed installation of about 40 GW, which was more than what was predicted. Hence, even the prediction of 100 GW by 2020 would be conservative and maybe we could even look at close to 150 GW by 2020,” noted one speaker. 

On the question of where the solar market was headed, one speaker said that according to predictions, by 2050 the solar installation market could go upto 5000 GW. “However, as per my prediction, we could be in the range of anywhere from 5000 GW to 30,000 GW as – at 2 cents per KW -- we could satisfy almost 40 per cent of the worlds energy needs! Hence it is important to know where we are at 2015. We are right at the beginning of the world photovoltaic market today and the big growth is coming in the next 10-20 years! All countries which recognise this fact will have a huge economic advantage.... and India, with a well educated population, could have an important share of the solar market that is coming up. Whatever capacities that have been installed in the last 10-15 years, will have to be doubled in the next 5 years if we have to march forward towards our goals in solar installation capacities,” he added.

To a question about how solar energy could be integrated into the grid, one speaker noted that photovoltaic would be one of the key pillars of the global renewable energy systems and, with huge economic opportunities for people, Intersolar India would light the fire for a future in photovoltaic sector.

The gathering observed that India’s emergence as a dominating global PV market had come about only because of the vision of MNRE being carried forward in promoting the Solar power industry, which has been facing similar challenges that the IT industry faced about 20 years ago. The 20th century had begun to witness a marked shift towards solar energy with a CAGR of 24 per cent from 2000 to 2014 with the Asian participation in the solar power revolution. India’s solar potential was 750 GW including Rajasthan (142 GW) J&K (110 GW), MP (60 GW), besides several other states having tremendous potential.

One speaker said that with solar radiation being very high in India, the country presented an all the more exciting future for the growth of solar energy in India, which was 36 MW in 2010, 900 mW in 2011-2012, and currently 4600 MW with expectations of reaching 100 GW by 2022. 

To a question about this figure could be achieved, the speakers pointed out that rooftop use had acquired a major share in the solar capacity – which again was exciting – and the MNRE target of 40 per cent via rooftops will be very important for everyone in this industry.

Where the country’s 100 GW target was realistically concerned, the speakers highlighted the present installed capacity for power being 249 GW and that if India had to meet its developmental objectives to satisfy the aspirations of the growing middleclass, the installed capacity would be 778 GW by 2030-2032. While solar energy in 2014 was only one per cent of the energy mix, in 2017 – in capacity terms – it would be six per cent, but in energy terms only three per cent. So the potential is tremendous, they stated, while identifying solar parks as being the enablers to achieve the country’s 100 GW target. 
Dominick Rodrigues

Dominick Rodrigues

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