Anti-dumping investigations are underway in the U.S. and India – two of the world’s largest solar markets – and it appears likely to result in the imposition of tariffs. The global solar industry is currently awaiting anxiously while these investigations move forward, as whatever tariff decisions they make are likely to reverberate through the global solar supply chain.
Mercom recently conversed with Rohit Kumar, head of the Indian subcontinent for global supplier REC Solar, about this issue and others affecting the solar industry.
How is REC Solar differentiating itself in India’s highly competitive solar market?
We firmly believe that differentiation happens best at the product level. Being an innovative product company helps us to maintain a technological edge and stay ahead of the competition. Superior quality and performance combined with high reliability and bankability are the keys for a professional solar industry company. REC has a long-term approach with a focus on building lasting relationships, and the recent launch of our highly appreciated global partner program has brought another successful element of our go-to-market strategy to the Indian market.
Singapore was excluded from the Suniva anti-dumping case by the U.S. International Trade Commission. Considering that you are based in Singapore, how do you see this decision affecting your future plans?
Regarding REC’s future plans, that depends on how exactly the ITC and President Trump rule on the petition, which would occur sometime between mid-November and mid-January. As there are a wide range of ruling outcomes, it’s too early to predict how this petition will specifically impact REC’s business. Any comment at this moment would be highly speculative.
How long have you supplied the Indian solar market and how do you view it currently?
We have been present in the market for over six years now and have supplied more than 250 MW so far. Our experience has been tremendous for the last three years, where we have grown with more than 150 percent CAGR. There has been a perceptible shift toward quality that is reflected in our numbers every quarter. The premise is rather simple, as more and more people become aware and the installations base grows, the end-customer’s knowledge will increase concomitantly with the desire for a quality and a high-performing product. This is truer for rooftops, since there the intention is to own the assets for 25 years and buyers have a personal stake in the assets performing optimally.
Considering you ship to both the U.S. and Indian markets, can you tell us about some of the differences between them?
Solar has picked up at a different pace in each country; While the U.S. was an early adopter with demand coming from the grassroots and the community, India used a top-down approach where the government set ambitious targets first and then demand peaked. The Indian market is also unique in the sense that we still have an entire segment of the population that is not connected to the grid, and there is a vast gap between demand and supply.
Moving forward, things will come into alignment as the Indian market matures and customers make more informed choices as prosumers (power producing consumers).
Although we have yet to see the residential rooftop market in India gain an immediate uptick in its demand trajectory, which according to our internal estimates and external forecasts should happen by 2019, the rooftop segment, in general, will be a significant contributor to India’s year-on-year growth to 2022 per our forecasts.
How are you competing in this low-price environment?
By not competing on price! We are educating, informing, and making end consumers aware of REC’s technological differentiation and unique partnership approach. As more customers opt for solar for commercial reasons, we will become the natural choice for those who are looking for the lowest LCOEs. With a proven track record in Indian conditions coupled with one of the lowest degradation and warranty claim rates, customers will feel completely convinced because their investments are secure.
Do you think an anti-dumping duty would be good for the Indian solar sector? Please elaborate.
In general, we believe that free and fair competitive markets are vital for the solar industry. Lax trade restrictions distort markets and cause unnatural fluctuations. Harsh trade barriers unnecessarily increase prices and lead to a decline in the market.
The government has to be very cautious about how they draft the law because a lot of times in other countries loopholes are capitalized on after the law comes into force, defeating the entire purpose of the exercise.
The market is getting more competitive with each passing day, how do you plan to stay ahead of the curve?
Simply by doing what we have been doing all of this time; by providing consistent high-quality products that are globally renowned for quality and performance to the discerning Indian customers. We firmly believe that there is always a market for such products and with each passing year that market will continue to grow as more people become aware and are educated on the importance of reliability and high-quality, and this is what we want.
Image credit: REC Solar