The solar landscape in India is still marred with challenges that hamper the achievement of the target set for 2022, says MR Rajesh, Director, Power-One Micro Systems.
What are the significant challenges faced by the solar inverter segment?
Overall, the solar market is growing, though there are some issues pending to be resolved. The past year was especially tough. We began facing problems with the imposition of customs duty on solar panels, where more than 300 containers were held up in the customs. It called for government intervention to sort the issue. This was followed by the roll out of GST. In the beginning, solar came under 18 per cent GST and then it was brought down to 5 per cent. In the private segment, the customers may pay the difference of cost due to GST. However, in the government segment, sudden escalation in costs is not accepted and the EPC companies take the brunt. Sudden changes in taxes create confusion and lead to losses. These kinds of uncertainties are shadowing the entire business segment.
Recently, MNRE came out with a notification to get BIS certification for solar panels and all other components like inverters. The notification says that all inverters should have anti-dumping and safety certificate. However, India lacks lab facilities for testing and each testing takes about Rs 0.5 million, currently. The existing 15 models - ranging from molecular KW to 60 KW are available in India. The testing cost of these 15 models will amount to around Rs 10 million.
All products are IEC certified; so, there should be relaxation, as BIS also follows IEC certification standards. One should understand that all these costs will be passed on to the end customers.
MNRE notification also had a severe impact on importers, as the goods were held by the customs. The customs department was adhering to the government notification, and it is not their duty to understand the challenges of the solar industry.
Solar tariffs have dipped considerably in the recent past. Your comments on the viability of the changed scenario?
Many non-related people have entered the solar business, since there is now a thrust on renewables. However, due to their incompetence in understanding the economics of this sector, they quote rates that cause price dips. The reduction in prices appears reasonable, however, on the flip side, it is reflected in the quality of materials used. The players should look at the benchmark pricing and fix their rates.
EPC players are also facing the issue of getting subsidies from the state governments. People who have entered under the subsidy scheme have incurred massive losses because of this delay. Telangana, AP, Gujarat, and Rajasthan are some of the leading states that face this issue.
In terms of technology, where do you place the Indian products?
Whether it is a domestic inverter or imported inverters, technology is more or less the same. But to sell in India, technology is not the only criteria. The inverters should synchronise with the grid. Most of the imported inverters come with either European or Chinese technical specifications. The synchronising voltage given in these products are 180-230 V. In many cases, the Indian range is between 150 and 230 V.
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