Indian solar sector showed incredible progress in recent years by becoming a 30,000 crore industry. But, in Q1 2018 corporate funding within the solar industry fell by 65%. Fortunately, the numbers have significantly increased by 15% as 2018 comes to a close. Nearly $5.3 billion was raised by the first half of 2018 in comparison to 2017. As a nascent industry, the Indian solar sector needs support and funding to grow. And, factoring in the growth of funding scene, this can be construed as a positive development for solar in India. However, to predict the outcome, we need to inspect the present scenario in depth.
Recent time witnessed Solar Energy Corporation of India (SECI) rising the upper tariff ceiling for its 10 GW of interstate transmission system (ISTS) connected solar photovoltaic power projects. This can be considered as a move towards the right path, factoring in lack of developer interest in recent solar projects. Although, Indian solar initiatives have earned commendation for making incredible growth trajectories (5 GW solar capacity in 2015, 10 GW in 2016 and ~24 GW in 2018), policy interventions are needed to protect and prioritize the solar industry for continued success.
Government of India’s commitment to provide ‘Power for All’ and its decision to support green energy transition, marked a new beginning for the country. With solar energy transition promising to save billions ($) in fossil fuel imports, create jobs, initiate technological growth, facilitate industrial growth, and offer the opportunity to claim the export market, developing countries like India need to quickly seize the opportunity and become a solar powered country. And factoring in India’s recent initiatives towards solar growth, we can fairly assume that the country has chosen the right path to social, economic, and industrial revolution, which will illuminate the future of more than 200 million people (who currently live without electricity). Like any industry, there are multiple challenges in countrywide solarisation in India. However, recent taxes and duties levied on growing solar industry must be considered as the biggest challenge in path to India’s most important and impactful transition.
As one of the fastest growing economies, India decisively opted for solar development, understanding its potential to lift the country out of financial, social, and industrial darkness. The announcement of targeting 100 GW solar energy by 2022 evidently created an environment of urgency and brought forth a plethora of opportunities for industrial development. As a result, our country quickly became the second most attractive renewable energy market in the world. However, Government of India’s decision to impose Safeguard Duty on solar imports stands to undo the growth India accomplished through enhancing domestic solar manufacturing capacities. Many in the industry argue that the new policy is completely opposite of what our Solar mission and Make in India initially stood for.
Director General of Trade Remedies (DGTR) initiated Safeguard Duty investigation on import of Solar Cells, whether or not assembled in panels or modules in December 2017. The Director General of Trade Remedies in its preliminary findings recommended to impose 70% safeguard duty on imported solar cell and modules imported in India. Recently Committee of Secretaries decided to not impose Safeguard Duty based on preliminary findings and it decided to take call on duty once DGTR releases it’s final findings. However, we should evaluate the scenario that will unfold if the duty is imposed.
Safeguard Duty: A Boon or Roadblock?
Indian solar industry is growing and the consistent progress portrays the Government initiatives in a bright light. However, the industry is still at a nascent age and requires constant support in development of a favourable environment for growth. And although, protecting domestic manufacturing industry seems to be the right move (Domestic players had a market share of 13 per cent in FY15, which is estimated to decline to 7 per cent in FY18), we have to understand that blanket Safeguard duty could lead to counterproductive results.