The Bangalore Electricity Supply Company Limited (BESCOM) has recently revised its guidelines to empanel inverter manufacturers for government solar programs in Karnataka. Inverter manufacturers feel that the empanelment process is not only unreasonable and extensive but also expensive.
Earlier, inverter manufacturers had to submit the International Electrotechnical Commission (IEC) certificate and other documents for empanelment. The inverter manufacturers had to also register their application in the prescribed form with the General Manager (DSM), Corporate Office, BESCOM.
The other documents to be filed include – company registration certificate, factory license, GST registration certificate, and turnover for the past three financial years. Also, the technical specifications of the grid-tied inverters and details of their service centers in Karnataka will need to be provided.
BESCOM also made it mandatory to submit a self-declaration providing a minimum guarantee of five years for inverters with an efficiency of over 95%.
Along with the paperwork, inverter manufacturers have to pay processing fees for each model with different capacities. Similar costs apply for renewing the empanelment and for any capacity addition.
While this process was already comprehensive and the fees steep, BESCOM has added more to the existing documentation and expenses.
According to the revised rules, inverter manufacturers also need to arrange and pay for a factory visit by two BESCOM officials, a one-time inspection. They also have to renew IEC certificates every five years from the date of testing.
Additionally, inverter suppliers must submit a performance certificate undersigned by a BESCOM assistant engineer in the area of the rooftop solar installation where the inverter is connected. The certificate is issued only after positive customer feedback.
The BESCOM process is in addition to the self-certification of solar inverters that the Ministry of New and Renewable Energy (MNRE) has mandated. The government has made it compulsory that the solar inverter tests be conducted by labs for mandatory registration with the Bureau of Indian Standards (BIS). The deadline for such certification is now extended from June 30, 2021, to December 31, 2021. The extension applies only to those with valid IEC certificates and test reports from international test labs.
Speaking to Mercom, inverter manufacturers explained that BESCOM’s empanelment procedure is complex, time-consuming, and financially unviable.
A senior executive at a solar inverter manufacturer said, “The BESCOM doesn’t have to introduce these new empanelment procedures. Manufacturers are already paying a considerable amount for Bureau of Indian Standards (BIS) and IEC certification.”
Other executives at leading solar inverter manufacturers also concurred. The duplication and additional processes were only increasing the formalities and costs.
Processing fees & manufacturing facility inspection
The guidelines also specify that the manufacturers must bear the cost of a visit by two BESCOM officials to the inverter manufacturing facility for inspection.
A senior executive at a solar inverter manufacturer said, “Factory inspection should not be required when manufacturers have submitted the IEC certificate that authorizes them to sell products across the globe. With BIS certification, we are authorized to sell products across the country.”
He added that other states like Kerala and Punjab are also proposing similar empanelment procedures.
A representative of another solar inverter manufacturer said that if manufacturers do not have a manufacturing facility in India, they would have to pay for the visit of BESCOM officials to a foreign manufacturing facility.
Renewal of IEC certificates
Inverter manufacturers must renew IEC certificates after five years from the date of testing. Earlier, they only needed to renew their IEC certificates if they made any changes in their products.
The executives added, “The renewal of the IEC certificate puts more financial burden on the manufacturers. BESCOM also wants us to submit a performance certificate undersigned by the subdivision’s assistant engineer. It takes a lot of time to get a certificate from the engineers as they are always on the field.”
The rooftop solar sector has seen various policy changes, including the net metering cap. These changes have only delayed the growth in the industry and added to the woes of the developers.
According to Mercom’s India Solar Market Leaderboard 2021, Sungrow, Huawei, and Sineng Electric were the top solar inverter suppliers to the Indian solar market in the calendar year 2020.
Harsh is a staff reporter at Mercom India. Previously with Indian Express, he has covered general interest stories. He holds a Masters Degree in Journalism from Symbiosis Institute of Media and Communication, Pune.