The growing needs of the Indian solar industry and supply chain disruptions that started with the Covid-19 pandemic have magnified the need for a robust manufacturing ecosystem.
Despite the government’s best efforts to give the much-needed boost to the domestic manufacturing sector through a plethora of initiatives, things are still moving at a slow pace, and it’s going to take time before we have a self-sustaining manufacturing framework in place.
India launched the production-linked incentive (PLI) program to support vertically integrated, gigawatt-scale manufacturing of high-efficiency solar modules. While the industry has welcomed the move, many manufacturers believe that the program will only help the more prominent players.
Mercom spoke to Juhi Marwadi, Director of PIXON Green Energy, to discuss the company’s plans and targets and the present state of the domestic manufacturing sector.
How does the domestic solar manufacturing business look right now? Has the demand picked up?
The solar module manufacturing business is growing at a rapid pace. The Indian government is focused on achieving renewable energy targets by manufacturing components in India. Government initiatives like ‘Aatmanirbhar Bharat,’ ‘Make in India,’ and the PLI program have helped Indian companies to initiate manufacturing and scale production. The support is not limited to these initiatives but is focused on reducing imports by imposing the Basic Customs Duty (BCD) on solar modules and solar cells, which will come into effect from April next year. Hence, the demand is definitely increasing with the growing requirement, but I believe that the market is a little uncertain currently, but in the coming days, as all the factors point out, it is bound to get better.
What is your current manufacturing capacity? What are your expansion plans?
PIXON embodies both the manufacturing of solar products and turnkey solar engineering, procurement, and construction (EPC) solutions. The company is equipped with a modern turnkey module production facility of 400 MW with raw materials sourced from Europe, and we are planning to expand it to 1 GW. PIXON is also in the process of accelerating the work on the production line of EVA film (800 MW) and other raw materials to meet the quality aspects.
How has the Covid-19 pandemic affected your business?
The company is growing at a faster pace. Even after complete lockdown last year, the company increased operations, and the hiring went up tenfold.
Do you think the incentives offered to module and cell manufacturers under the PLI program are adequate? What other policy support do you need?
If multiple companies are allowed to participate in the PLI program, it will undoubtedly boost manufacturing across the solar sector. The more the local players qualify for this program and receive incentives, the more the industry will benefit.
The Indian government needs to have a stable long-term strategy and provide a balanced framework. The government should boost domestic production and provide opportunities for Indian companies to tap into the global market.
The state governments should facilitate the acquisition of land and infrastructure at concessional rates and expedite regulatory approvals and permissions. Furthermore, sustained innovation should be at the core of the government’s new plans. It should focus on setting up new R&D facilities and institutions to support this high-growth sector and encourage global partnerships with technology leaders.
Currently, Indian solar developers rely on imported modules to a larger extent. What does the future look like? Will local manufacturing be able to meet the demand?
Companies have submitted more than 50 GW bids under the PLI program. I am sure that India will have more than 20 GW of the local demand and 20 GW of the overseas market by 2027. So bids submitted under the PLI program prove that India will easily cater to the demand.
How do you plan to keep pace with technology advancements to meet the growing demand and differentiate yourself in the market?
PIXON has an in-house PV module testing lab. This quality lab has the equipment, standards, protocols, and processes defined by the International Electrotechnical Commission (IEC).
To address the issues related to the Indian solar sector, Mercom hosted a virtual conference, ‘Mercom India Solar Forum 2021’ on October 21. A session dedicated to the solar manufacturing sector titled ‘Moving Towards a Domestic Manufacturing Base with Sustainable Demand’ examined the issues related to the domestic manufacturing sector and measures to create a self-sustainable manufacturing ecosystem in the country.
Rakesh Ranjan is a staff reporter at Mercom India. Prior to joining Mercom, he worked in many roles as a business correspondent, assistant editor, senior content writer, and sub-editor with bcfocus.com, CIOReview/Silicon India, Verbinden Communication, and Bangalore Bias. Rakesh holds a Bachelor’s degree in English from Indira Gandhi National Open University (IGNOU). More articles from Rakesh Ranjan.