India plans aid for solar panel makers

PRAYAS INITIATIVE::The Modi administration is mulling a US$3.1 billion package of measures to increase installed photovoltaic capacity and create an export industry


Wed, Oct 19, 2016 - Page 10

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government is planning a 210 billion rupee (US$3.1 billion) package of state aid for India’s solar panel manufacturing industry, according to two officials.

The so-called Prayas initiative, short for “Pradhan Mantri Yojana for Augmenting Solar Manufacturing,” a central-government plan designed to lift India’s installed photovoltaic capacity as well as create an export industry, according to two senior government officials with direct knowledge of the plan. They asked not to be identified because the policy is not yet public.

Modi wants to raise renewable capacity to 175 gigawatts (GW) by 2022 from 45GW at present.

In addition to meeting its own energy targets, which Bloomberg New Energy Finance estimates may cost US$200 billion, India wants to emulate industrial developments in China, where solar manufacturers have created a world-leading export industry.

The Prayas program, part of Modi’s “make in India” campaign, is intended to create 5GW of photovoltaic production capacity from 2019 and build 20GW of projects in the country by 2026, the officials said.

The policy, which is being developed by the Indian Ministry of New and Renewable Energy, along with the Niti Aayog government research group, will be presented to the Ministry of Finance within a month before going to the Cabinet for final approval, they said.

Last month Indian Minister of Power Piyush Goyal said in Mumbai that a policy to encourage domestic manufacturing of solar equipment is in works.

When reached on telephone, the spokesman for the power and renewable energy ministries declined to comment.

India has become one of the biggest clients of Chinese photovoltaic manufacturers and in the absence of its own domestic capacity, that reliance could potentially grow.

In the first six months of this year, India imported 18 percent of China’s production worth US$1.1 billion, according to Bloomberg New Energy Finance.

India’s policy proposal, expected to create thousands of jobs, is also in response to the industry’s demand for help to the nation’s solar manufacturers, one official said, adding that multiple tenders of a few hundred megawatts each would be issued for the manufacture of everything from wafers to modules.

The government could offer about 9 million rupees a megawatt for manufacturing tenders and 5 million rupees a megawatt for local deployment, according to one of the officials, who said the numbers are subject to change.

The plan “might give a price advantage” if the manufacturing-hub logistics are “well planned,” Bloomberg New Energy Finance analyst Jenny Chase said.

Money alone is not a sufficient incentive for companies to set up the most high-tech automated factories needed to compete, she said.

Japan’s Softbank Group Corp told Bloomberg News last month it is considering a manufacturing joint venture in India that could produce the solar panels needed to meet Modi’s energy targets.

“To build large-scale manufacturing efficiency matching Chinese economics of scale will require government support,” SB Energy executive chairman Manoj Kohli said in an interview in New Delhi.

He described Indian support policies in an “evolution stage.”