The Ministry of New and Renewable Energy (MNRE) has discontinued the empanelment of channel partners under the grid-connected rooftop and small solar projects program. MNRE said that effective November 23, 2017, empanelment would no longer be required in order to participate in development tenders for rooftop and small solar projects.
In its order, MNRE stated that “it has not mandated that being a channel partner is necessary to participate in the tenders being issued by implementing agencies.” MNRE has asked implementing agencies to stop disqualifying bidders for not being channel partners.
When contacted, an MNRE official told Mercom, “The idea of having a channel partner was to be assured of quality in the first place, now MNRE’s new quality measures are in place and the start of their enforcement period is also drawing near.”
With these new quality measures set to go into effect on January 1, 2018, the MNRE official explained that continuing to create new channel partners would only create a bottleneck for the sector.
When asked to elaborate, the MNRE official said, “Channel partners are not inducted year-round, this would have created a sort of bias and hindered progress in a market where everyone is following similar norms and standards.” Removing the empanelment mechanism will enable the MNRE to open up the rooftop and small solar sector for everyone that conforms to the MNREs new quality standards.
The MNRE official added that this change will ensure that new players can continue entering the sector to help fulfil the additional tenders that will be issued in order to meet the government’s 40 GW target.
The announcement comes amid complaints from established rooftop installers that many inexperienced rooftop installers are entering the market (low barrier to entry) and bidding irrationally in order to win projects. Even though the new quality measures are being put into place, it is not clear whether these measures will curb the trend of irrational bidding by inexperienced newcomers.
As recently as September 2017, Mercom reported that the MNRE had de-empaneled 26 firms and agencies that were active in India’s rooftop solar sector after they failed to update the details of their grid-connected solar rooftop projects on the SPIN portal. At the same time, the MNRE re-instated another 45 rooftop installers to the empanelment program after the developers submitted appropriate responses in the SPIN portal.
In an exclusive article published earlier this month, Mercom reported that India’s total installed rooftop capacity is continuing to rise even though rooftop solar is not yet a part of the life of the average residential electricity consumer. The growth trend is instead being underpinned by the rising number of commercial, industrial, and government facilities that are using rooftop solar as a way to reduce their electricity bills.
During the third quarter of 2017, cumulative rooftop solar installations across India surpassed the 1.3 GW mark.
Image credit: Mahindra Susten