With domestic solar module manufacturing capacity announcements on the rise and an anti-dumping investigation pending, now is an opportune time to start new solar cell manufacturing lines in India, according to Chetan Shah, director of Indian module manufacturer Goldi Green.
The Mercom news team met with Shah on the sidelines of the Intersolar Mumbai 2017 conference. Here are the excerpts from that interview.
What is your perception of the Indian solar industry?
The Indian solar sector is growing. It is one of the fastest developing solar markets globally besides China and the United States. Both international and domestic players have a lot of hopes for India.
If you take a look at the past three years of India’s track record, all major corporations that were not in the solar business before are now turning into solar outfits or branching out into solar. This shows that the market is sustainable.
What do you think of the proposed anti-dumping duty?
The anti-dumping duty (ADD) when imposed will slightly affect the growth of the Indian solar sector. But, it is a positive move. In India there’s a saying that medicine is always bitter.
If you want to sell something in the Chinese market, you must manufacture it in China. This can be made true for India, too.
At present, we have the manufacturing capability and reputation but the policy framework to encourage domestic manufacturing from government is lacking. Chinese products are available at much lower prices and that is hindering the growth of Indian manufacturing.
There should be some barriers, some walls to restrict the imported supply of such goods at such low prices. This will result in investors, stakeholders, and manufacturers considering India as a manufacturing hub. As of now, many solar project installations are taking place in India but no one knows what will happen to these projects in regard to warranties and long-term performance.
The government is infusing millions of dollars in subsidies to promote the sector. All of this will be fruitful once the ADD is levied. The ADD is not a long-term solution, as I said before it will only slightly affect the growth of solar in India for the time being. I believe the growth of the Indian solar industry should be domestic inclusive, and to achieve that the short term and long-term action plans should be in place.
The imposition of the ADD will balance out the markets. The ADD should be imposed for a control period of up to five years. This would provide local manufacturers with the market visibility they need to scale up. Even foreign manufacturers would be willing to set up plants in India.
Indian products are respected around the world in terms of product quality and serviceability, the ADD will help manufacturers by securing a level playing field.
How should manufacturing be scaled up in India?
Solar manufacturing is a demand oriented business. At present, counting all the companies that have unveiled expansion plans in India, the country is on track to have a cumulative module manufacturing capacity of above 10 GW. This means that now is the time to invest in cell manufacturing.
10 GW of module lines need 10 GW of cell lines. It takes up to nine months to set up a cell line and roll out the first batch of products. Cell manufacturers are now ensured of continued demand, so they should scale up so that their capacity parallels module lines.
Once that is achieved, manufacturers should start looking towards wafers, ingots, and polysilicon.
Goldi Green recently scaled up to 500 MW of module manufacturing capacity. What is driving your expansion and what are your growth plans for the future?
All of these years we have been focusing on quality and consistent product delivery. We initially worked with a small manufacturing capacity of 130 MW.
We were initially serving limited customers with quality products. Later, we did OEM for some reputed global players and this gave us exposure to international standards and requirements. Now, we feel we are ready to compete with all of the top brands in the solar industry.
Our backend is ready, and we feel that we can increase our revenues by making bulk offerings at competitive prices. We have already expanded from 130 MW to 500 MW and by June 2018 we will have 1 GW of module manufacturing capacity.
As cell prices rise in China, how is Goldi Green managing its module pricing in India?
We are focusing on dynamic pricing to compete. Most of the contracts we sign with our customers are fixed-price contracts and we only bind ourselves on a quarter-to-quarter basis.
If cell prices escalate, then our prices go up in tandem with them or vice versa. Our clients believe in our products and hence they do not have issues. Quality and high prices do not necessarily go together. By quadrupling our manufacturing line, we are trying to bridge that gap and offer competitive prices.
For MW-scale projects or orders our ASP is between ₹24-24.50/watt and for kW-scale projects our ASP is between ₹25-25.50/watt.
What can the government do for the sector?
The government should stay away. For example, take the IT industry in India, there is no government interference in it and now it is the most lucratively growing sector in India.
Right now, the Indian solar sector is dependent on the government. Every day we expect the government to do something for us and this creates uncertainty. The government must restrict itself to defining the sector and the rules, policies, and laws governing or pertaining to it. After that, the individuals, industrialists, and investors should be free and independent within those boundaries.
The government must not dictate orders to industrialists and entrepreneurs, right now that’s what is wrong.
Do you have any comments on the Goods and Services Tax (GST)?
The GST has been a blessing for the sector. In addition, many local and state taxes that we had to bear previously have been done away with. If there is a difference of credit, then the government has promised to compensate for that. But the question is – when do we get the reimbursement?
Saumy is a senior staff reporter with MercomIndia.com covering business and energy news since 2016. Prior to Mercom, Saumy was a copy editor at Thomson Reuters. Saumy earned his Bachelors Degree in Journalism & Mass Communication from the Manipal Institute of Communication at Manipal University. More articles from Saumy Prateek.