In calendar year (CY) 2017, the Indian solar sector imported solar modules and cells totaling nearly $4.12 billion (~₹269 billion), a 43 percent increase from the $2.88 billion (~₹194 billion) recorded during the preceding year. In 2017, Indian solar exports also grew as cells and modules worth $132.29 million (~₹8.6 billion) were exported, registering a growth of 16 percent from 2016 when the figure stood at $114.3 million (~₹7.7 billion), according to data from the Department of Commerce.
The massive surge in imports can easily be attributed to record solar installations recorded in the country during 2017.
Mercom previously reported that Indian solar installations grew exponentially during the calendar year 2017, with the addition of 9,629 MW of large-scale and rooftop solar capacity. The installation total was more than double the 4,313 MW installed in 2016 and made 2017 the best year for solar installations in India to date.
Solar Exports in Q4 2017:
Looking at the quarterly data, in Q4 (Oct-Dec) 2017, India exported solar modules and cells worth $70.18 million (~₹4.6 billion), registering a growth of 62 percent from Q3 2017 (Jul-Sep), when the figure stood at $43.21 million (~₹2.8 billion).
Solar Imports in Q4 2017:
India recorded a 9 percent quarter-over-quarter increase in imported solar modules and cells to $799.9 million (~₹51.7 billion) in Q4 2017 from $732.87 million (~₹47.1 billion) in Q3 2017.
Taking all the quarters into account, the first quarter (Q1) of 2017 recorded the highest import activity, registering a total of approximately $1,354 million (~₹90.4 billion). There was a general drop in import activity in the second half of the year after the rise in Chinese module prices. With tenders and auctions being postponed due to uncertainty around safeguard duty, installations in 2018 are expected to decline to approximately 7.5 GW which is reflected in the import slowdown in the last two quarters of 2018.
Solar Imports by Country:
China once again emerged as the largest supplier of solar modules and cells to India in 2017, accounting for an 88.2 percent market share, up by 2 percent when compared to the 86.2 percent share in 2016. Malaysia was the second-largest exporter to India, accounting for 5.9 percent of the market share, down from a 7 percent share in 2016. Taiwan was the third-largest exporter to India, accounting for 2.2 percent of the market, up from 1.8 percent in 2016.
Solar Exports to Other Countries:
The United States became the largest importer of Indian solar cells and modules in 2017, accounting for approximately 28.4 percent of the total market share. This data comes as President Trump imposed a 30 percent tariff on imported cells and modules into the US but India was exempted from the levy of a 30 percent anti-dumping duty on its solar imports along with a hundred other countries. The tariff is scheduled to gradually decline in five percent increments over a four-year period to 15 percent in 2022.
India’s exemption was included as part of the U.S. International Trade Commission’s ruling in the Suniva and Solar World trade case filed under Section 201. The exemption will benefit Indian manufacturers who already export to the U.S. as well as those who are planning to do so. However, the potential market for Indian panels is expected to be small compared to the overall size of the U.S. solar market as imports from Generalized System of Preferences (GSP) countries will be limited to 3 percent per country (crystalline silicon) and 9 percent total for all exempt countries. We expect module exports to US to rise in the coming quarters.
The U.S. was closely followed by Turkey, which accounted for 22 percent of the Indian exports in 2017. Denmark, with a market share of 10.4 percent, emerged as the third-largest importer of Indian solar cells and modules.
The solar cell and module import figures could change drastically in future if a safeguard duty is imposed short-term and anti-dumping duty is applied long-term.
Ankita is an editor at MercomIndia.com where she writes and edits clean energy news stories and features. With years of experience in the news business, Ankita has a nose for news and an eye for detail. Prior to Mercom, Ankita was associated with The Times of India as a copy editor for the organization’s digital news desk. She holds a Bachelor’s degree in Psychology from Delhi University and a Postgraduate Diploma in journalism. More articles from Ankita Rajeshwari.