In the financial year (FY) 2016-17, import and export activity totaling $3.27 billion (~Rs.218.8 billion) was registered in the Indian solar sector according to Department of Commerce data. This was $749 million (~Rs.52.3 billion) more compared to the $2.52 billion (~Rs.166.6 billion) in FY 2015-16.

During the fiscal year, India exported solar modules and cells worth $69 million (~Rs.4.6 billion) and imported $3.2 billion (~Rs.214.2 billion). Compared to the previous financial year, solar imports grew by 36 percent to $3.2 billion (~Rs.214.2 billion) and exports declined by 60 percent, down from the $172 million (~Rs.11.4 billion) in FY 2015-16.

The massive uptick in imports is a direct result of higher installation activity in the country. Solar installations in FY 2015-16 totaled 3,019 MW, which increased in FY 2016-17 to 5,526 MW. This increase in installation activity year-over-year is mirrored in the rise in imports.

China was the largest exporter of solar modules and cells to India, accounting for $2.8 billion (~Rs.180.6 billion) of India’s total solar imports with an 88.1 percent market share in FY 2016-17. This was an increase of 4.5 percent year-over-year from 83.6 percent in FY 2015-16. Malaysia was the second largest exporter, accounting for $210.4 million (~Rs.13.6 billion) of India’s imports and a 6.6 percent market share (a decrease of 1.4 percent year-over-year from an 8 percent market share in FY 2015-16). Taiwan was the third largest exporter accounting for 1.8 percent of market share, a slight decrease from 1.9 percent market share in FY 2015-16.

India’s solar exports are experiencing a gradual decline. The United Kingdom was the largest importer of Indian solar modules and cells with $18.9 million (~Rs.1.2 billion). This accounted for 27.4 percent of India’s total solar exports, which is a decline of 35.5 percent year-over-year from a 62.9 percent share the previous financial year. Italy accounted for 8.4 percent of exports, an increase of 7.2 percent year- over-year from 1.2 percent market share in FY 2015-16. Belgium, at 7.7 percent, is the third largest importer of Indian modules. The U.S. and China accounted for 7.1 percent and 6.7 percent, respectively.

Recently, the Indian Solar Manufacturers Association (ISMA) filed an anti-dumping petition against solar imports from China, Taiwan, and Malaysia based on higher imports from these countries at cheaper prices which domestic installers are unable to compete with. Unless Indian manufacturers can compete on price, imports are expected to keep rising.

Raj Prabhu Raj is a recognized thought leader in clean energy markets where his work has influenced policies worldwide. He has a deep understanding of regulatory policy and clean energy markets and his market and opinion pieces are regularly published on both and other leading publications globally. Raj is also a regular speaker and presenter on clean energy policy and finance topics at conferences worldwide. Raj attended the KLE College of Science in Bangalore, India for physics and chemistry, and holds a Bachelor of Science Degree in Hotel and Institutional Management from Johnson and Wales University, Rhode Island. More articles from Raj Prabhu.