A three-month-long delay in procuring registration certificates issued by the Bureau of Indian Standards (BIS) for a new model of solar modules is severely hampering the solar industry.
According to sources in the Indian solar module industry, BIS has not issued registration certificates for imported modules since July 2020. These certificates are mandatory for customs clearance at the docks where the module shipments arrive. The module number is usually verified against the BIS certificate, and the shipment is cleared for entry into the country.
When Mercom reached out to MNRE officials, they agreed to the delays in issuing BIS certificates and attributed it to the overhauling of systems and processes at the Bureau. The ministry has communicated with the stakeholders, addressing the issue before it leads to further delay, Mercom was informed.
The module manufacturers/suppliers are mandated to test each model of solar modules imported or locally made with a BIS accredited laboratory. The application process is online and paperless.
In India, three labs provide the certification; Underwriters Laboratories (UL) Bengaluru, TUV Rheinland Bengaluru, and Hiphysix Pune. Considering there are not many testing facilities compared to the number of models of solar modules to be certified, the manufacturers are in a long line waiting to schedule the testing. The testing process lasts about three months.
Once the tests are concluded, the labs directly upload the results on the BIS portal and inform the module supplier through an email. Generally, the suppliers get the registration certificate from the BIS portal within 3-4 days. The certificate is valid for two years, and it is produced before the customs officials for inspection before releasing the shipment from the docks.
According to a module supplier, “Instead of receiving the certification in 3-4 working days, we haven’t received the certificates in the last three months, since July 2020. For every single model that we test, we invest up to ₹2.5 million (~$33,931), and if I send ten different models for testing, I am spending ₹25 million (~$339,310).” There are new technologies and models of modules coming in with higher efficiencies and power ratings. Cost is acting as a barrier in complying with the mandate that each model is to be tested, keeping the markets deprived of such advanced technologies.
A developer who has imported solar modules has been caught between since the modules are waiting for the BIS registration. In case the delay extends any further, the project commissioning could be hampered.
According to the module supplier, the imported modules already come with an International Electrotechnical Commission (IEC) certification that is accepted globally; however, India still insists on the BIS certificate.
The source further added that the BIS certificate refers to an old IEC standard which is outdated, “For example, when the IEC does salt mist corrosion test, the severity level is 6, while BIS is at severity level 2. Last year, the BIS certificate was based on the IEC 2005 edition, which was outdated around 2-3 years back. The BIS specification is very diluted. They should consider IEC certification, which is accredited across the world and has a higher standard.”
Some module suppliers informed that they are improving the power rating almost every six months, which means they have to spend on BIS certification every six months. This is not how international certification standards work. Fire rating test was not available until one year after BIS was launched, and manufacturers were given exemptions for it.
The ministry is changing the BIS registration guidelines in the wake of the government’s Aatmanirbhar Bharat (self-reliance) initiative, Mercom was told. But the stakeholders are unaware of these developments leading to undue anxiety and lack of communication.
Mercom has earlier reported about issues around the BIS certification process for solar modules.
Rahul is a staff reporter at Mercom India. Before entering the world of renewables, Rahul was head of the Gujarat bureau for The Quint. He has also worked for DNA Ahmedabad and Ahmedabad Mirror. Hailing from a banking and finance background, Rahul has also worked for JP Morgan Chase and State Bank of India. More articles from Rahul Nair.