Extent of India’s new utility-scale solar has almost halved in six months


Almost half the 1.2 GW of utility-scale solar added in India in the third quarter of the current fiscal year came from SoftBank, which installed 400 MW, and Acme (300 MW). The state of Rajasthan, which enjoys the highest solar irradiation, accounted for 55% of the new projects, according to analyst Bridge to India’s quarterly India Solar Compass report.

Based on the latest three-month figure, India is expected to add ‘only’ 4.1 GW of new capacity in the current fiscal year, down 55% on 2017-18, and well short of the 16 GW annual target planned by the Ministry of New and Renewable Energy (MNRE).

The report adds, total solar capacity reached 27.4 GW on September 30 – 23.2 GW of it utility scale, 3.4 GW of rooftop PV and 800 MW through off-grid solar.

Bright spot: rooftop solar

Amid the slowdown in utility-scale capacity, rooftop solar is growing at a robust 70% annually. Unaffected by policy uncertainty and not reliant on available land or transmission infrastructure, the market segment is benefiting from sharp falls in module prices, which have plunged 30% in the last nine months.

Regarding the slowdown in solar activity, Vinay Rustagi, Managing Director of Bridge to India, said: “[The] Indian solar market has grown spectacularly over the last four years, but is struggling to sustain [momentum] because of policy and execution challenges.

“The slowdown is worrying for all stakeholders. We are witnessing increasing volatility in tender issuance, auctions and capacity addition, because of poor coordination between different government agencies and constraints in transmission capacity and land acquisition.

“[The] MNRE has not helped matters by failing to decisively address GST and safeguard duty issues. Arbitrary [maximum power] tariffs and poor tender design have resulted in tenders getting routinely cancelled and/or [being] under-subscribed. As a result, [the] gap between tenders issued and auctions completed has been widening in the last year.

“Our revised best-case estimate for solar capacity by March 2022 is 67 GW, well short of the 100 GW [national] target, unless decisive remedial steps are taken immediately.”

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