The Ministry of New and Renewable Energy (MNRE) will soon come up with a blueprint for the utilization, manufacture, disposal, and import of solar photovoltaic (PV) module and glass containing antimony. Antimony is a chemical element that has been found to have hazardous effects on the environment. MNRE’s decision comes on the heels of directions issued by the Principal Bench of the National Green Tribunal in Delhi.
MNRE has to submit the blueprint regarding antimony usage in solar modules and their disposal by March 20, 2019. The National Green Tribunal in its order dated February 27, 2019, has provided the MNRE with three weeks to submit the final blueprint to Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change (MoEF).
Later, the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change will frame a policy and issue appropriate direction for effective use and disposal of antimony coated solar PV panels.
In August 2017, lawyer Niharika filed a plea with the National Green Tribunal related to the issue of severe adverse impact on the environment resulting from solar PV panels. It sought a direction to the Central Pollution Control Board to amend the E-Waste Rules, 2016 and bring antimony within the scope of Rules 16 pertaining to hazardous substances.
The submissions brought to light the fact that solar glasses containing antimony widely used in the manufacture of solar PV modules, emit dangerous substance.
In February 2018, the National Green Tribunal constituted an expert committee to look into the matter and submit a report within six weeks. The report focused on issues like whether antimony was toxic, its effects on the environment, if there is any possibility of leaching the heavy metal and if so, to what extent. Apart from analyzing the ill effects of antimony, the report also looked into remedial measures.
In January 2019, after studying the expert committee report, the National Green Tribunal expressed concern over lack of policy on disposal of solar panels containing antimony and sought minimum time required for the drafting of such a policy. The Principal Bench of the National Green Tribunal asked the MNRE, MoEF and other parties about the instructions on the issue and appraisal regarding the time needed to formulate such rules.
Now, once the MNRE submits its blueprint, the MoEF will have three weeks to prepare and declare a policy concerning the manufacture, disposal, and import of solar module and glass containing antimony in the country.
The National Green Tribunal has also directed the MoEF to provide an opportunity to hear the activist or her team before finalizing the policy.
Mercom recently reported that in the calendar year 2018, the Indian solar sector imported solar modules and cells totaling nearly $2.59 billion (~₹184.57 billion). The Indian solar market installed 8,263 MW in 2018, according to Mercom India’s Q4 & Annual 2018 India Solar Market Update.
When contacted, an official at the National Green Tribunal informed that the right action is being taken at the right time. “The issue was brought to the tribunal’s notice at the right time. The industry hasn’t gone much ahead, and it won’t be that tough to make a change. If you consider current manufacturing capacity in the country, it won’t be a tough-ask as it is just a few gigawatts. The policy will also have clauses for imported modules.”
“Before this case, there was no policy regarding antimony,” added the official.