India’s bold 2018 solar plans to boost domestic manufacturing, jobs

Last week, the Ministry of New and Renewable Energy (MNRE) released a bold roadmap for India’s solar sector for the next three fiscal years until 2019-20. The government is planning to auction 20 GW in 2017-18, 30 GW in 2018-19 and another 30 GW in 2019-20.

According to IHS Markit, a London based analysis company, out of the 20 GW of expected installations in 2018, 1.3 GW of capacity has already been commissioned via the Andhra Pradesh Solar Park and Rajasthan Solar Park. In Andhra Pradesh, projects were won and commissioned by Softbank, Azure Power, Greenko and Adani Power at tariffs ranging from INR 4.63 ($0.072) to 5.13 ($0.08)/kWh, via 25 year power purchase agreements (PPAs). In Rajasthan, projects were won and commissioned by Fortum and NTPC. NTPC’s (self-owned) projects were installed by EPC developers, Vikram Solar, Jakson and Tata Power. The solar tariff for the Fortum project is INR 4.34 ($0.068)/kWh.

Another 2.3 GW of tenders have been awarded, with the projects currently under construction. Out of this, 1.1 GW were awarded to various developers, at tariffs ranging from INR 2.44 ($0.037) to 4.36 ($0.068)/kWh. This includes the lowest recorded tariff bid won during Bhadla solar park phase-III auction. The rest of the 1.2 GW capacity was awarded to the Andhra Solar Parks and Kerala Solar Parks to both Indian and international developers, at tariffs ranging from INR 4.43 ($0.069) to 5.12 ($0.08)/kWh.

As such, 17 GW are left over, and will be opened for bidding. Specifically, 3 GW in December 2017; 3 GW in January 2018; 5 GW in February 2018; and 6 GW in March 2018.

Commenting on the tender plans, Dharmendra Kumar, Analyst-Solar Energy, at IHS Markit – India, told pv magazine that only those companies which establish manufacturing units in India will be allowed to bid in the upcoming auctions. “The government will also send an Expression of Interest to all international manufacturers who are currently supplying in India,” he said.

How helpful?

The question is, how will these auctions help the Indian government? Responding, Kumar said the installation roadmap and the recently announced 20 GW manufacturing tender plan are interrelated. “This will generate huge demand within [the Indian] market,” he said, adding that they will boost the country’s ‘Make in India’ policy and encourage local manufacturing. “Hence, new jobs will be created, which will mitigate the unemployment issue.”

He went on to say that the government’s plans will also help to resolve the issue of the ongoing anti-dumping investigation, “because the demand will increase within India and only ‘Made in India’ products will be used.”

Furthermore, said Kumar, the 20 GW installation goal for 2018, and other yearly roadmaps, are scheduled for large-scale solar parks across India. According to solar park guidelines, land and other infrastructure facilities like sub-stations, grid-connectivity, and the roads to the solar parks are provided by the government. As such, “as the manufacturer can produce and simultaneously develop solar parks efficiently, with government support … it is easy for EPC developers to bid such low tariff and amplify installation targets.”

Kumar mentioned that some companies like TBEA and Trina Solar already have plans for expansion in India. He did not provide any details, however.