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The Ministry of New and Renewable Energy (MNRE) has issued a memorandum concerning the importance of following BIS certification when it comes to quality of solar photovoltaic (PV) modules.  According to the memorandum, “The lenders involved in financing solar PV power projects must insist for BIS certification regarding quality of solar modules and not whether the supply of solar modules is from the Bloomberg Tier-I List.”

With a view to ensure quality of solar PV equipment, MNRE earlier notified “Solar Photovoltaics, Systems, Devices and Components Goods (Requirements for Compulsory Registration) Order, 2017.” This order made it mandatory for any manufacturer, involved in manufacturing, storing for sale, selling or distributing crystalline silicon terrestrial PV modules (Si wafer based), thin-film terrestrial PV modules (a-Si, CiGs and CdTe), PV module ( Si wafer and Thin film), power converters for use in PV power system, utility—interconnected PV inverters, storage battery, to obtain registration for concerned Indian Standards as specified by the Bureau of Indian Standards (BIS).

Prior to the implementation of the BIS certification as a compulsory requirement there was no uniform and standard means to ascertain the quality of the modules supplied in India. Therefore, the Bloomberg Tier-I List was followed as recognized standards by the lenders.

The MNRE memorandum stated that the ministry has received representations requesting that instead of insisting on Tier-I Solar PV modules, BIS certified solar PV modules should be acceptable.

Tier-I does not reflect on the quality of solar PV modules, but on the financial capability of the manufacturers as evaluated by Bloomberg. While MNRE’s “Solar Photovoltaics, Systems, Devices and Components Goods (Requirements for Compulsory Registration) Order, 2017” certifies the quality of the solar PV modules.

The fact that supply is from Tier-I company does not ensure quality of the module. It only ensures that the module manufacturer is recognized as a Tier-I manufacturer by Bloomberg based on its financial strength. This list is also dynamic and keeps on changing every quarter. Further, such a condition automatically leads to a preference being given to foreign, including Chinese, manufacturers at the cost of Indian ones. It is the quality which the lenders should be interested in and the focus should be on modules satisfying the BIS standards, irrespective of the financial strength of the company, according to the memorandum.

When contacted a MNRE official said, “The whole BIS certification was brought about to ensure top quality solar PV projects in India. It is not only about the sun, it is also about the weather conditions and what is best-suited for us in terms of technology. When our solar sector was just coming up, we did not have the quality-scale or any such thing, so Tier-I became a norm, but now as our sector has evolved, we have come up with a set of guidelines/rules/protocols that are to followed if desired quality in Indian conditions is to be met.”

According to Mercom, In September 2017, MNRE had issued Solar Photovoltaics, Systems, Devices and Components Goods (Requirements for Compulsory Registration) Order, which was to come into force from September 5, 2018. But the date was later advanced after consultation with various stakeholders including BIS on the condition of self-certification by manufacturers. The order was applicable until June 30, 2018. After this the MNRE had extended the date of submission from June 30, 2018 to September 4, 2018.

In September 2018, MNRE again provided a final extension; date for self-certification of six products done by solar module manufacturers was extended to September 20, 2018. The MNRE also issued a series of guidelines for conducting tests on solar modules (crystalline and thin film, including bifacial type). The tests are to be conducted by test labs for compulsory registration with the BIS for the implementation of the Solar Photovoltaics Systems, Devices and Component Goods Order 2017.

The MNRE official continued, “Now, we have test labs that have received BIS certification done to conduct quality checks/tests on modules and other solar components. We have the infrastructure to implement BIS certification, a growing number of firms are becoming BIS certified and conforming to Indian standards. It is of utmost importance that lenders/investors/institutions know what the requirement is.”

Saumy Prateek 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.