In the period from March – May ’17, India’s solar industry witnessed a fall in Solar tariffs of close to 25% .
In the period from June – August ’17, India’s solar industry started experiencing DISCOMS reneging on their PPA commitments.
In the period from Sept – November ’17, India’s Solar Industry has witnessed an increase in Solar Modules prices of close to 25%.
As we approach December ’17 – and upto March ’18- the Industry would wait with bated breath to see how far the gap widens in India’s Solar ‘Revolution’ and its ground level ‘Reality’, and how many participants in this ‘Race‘ fall by the wayside as the Government readies to deal the industry another body-blow with the levy of Anti-Dumping Duty on the import of Solar modules.
In the 500 MW bid invited for by SECI at Rajasthan’s Bhadla solar park – a 10,000-hectare facility on the edge of the Thar desert prices of Solar power crashed to a record low of Rs. 2.44/ kWh, to surpass Coal as the cheapest source of electricity, which sells power at an average price of Rs. 3.20/kWh.
6 months later, and there are strong rumors that M/s ACME Solar Holdings Pvt. Ltd. which had quoted the price of Rs. 2.44/ kWh for 200 MW of the tendered capacity, has withdrawn its bid for executing the said project at Bhadla’s Solar Park as prices of Solar modules have seen an unprecedented increase in Module prices from the anticipated levels of $0.27 cents/ Wp to a 15 month high of $0.39 cents/ Wp for December shipments of modules.
This price is expected to increase even further, as an environmental crackdown in China coincided with an annual lull in polysilicon output, according to Jenny Chase, head solar analyst at Bloomberg New Energy Finance. Refiners in China typically cut back polysilicon production during the summer for routine maintenance. Solar manufacturers anticipate the seasonal slowdown, but it was exacerbated this year when China’s Ministry of Environmental Protection shut down several plants that make metallurgical silicon, a partially refined polysilicon that other companies further purify for use in solar cells.
These two events led to a polysilicon shortage that drove prices in China from $14 to $19 a kilogram over the past four months, according to Guelph, Ontario-based Canadian Solar, which has most of its manufacturing in China.
And now the NDA government is expected to impose an anti-dumping duty (ADD) on imported solar panels in order to boost sales of locally made ones. This is bound to increase the costs of setting up power plants as 89% of the solar panels used in India are imported, mostly from China, Taiwan, and Malaysia whose products are around 10% cheaper than locally made ones.
“If the anti-dumping duty is imposed—which is likely, very strongly likely—then it will make life easier for domestic producers (of solar panels),” said Amit Kumar, a partner at consulting firm PwC, who focuses on the renewables sector. An ADD of, say, 25% will allow a similar hike in prices of local products, too, bringing down the homegrown firms’ losses, Kumar added.
However this isn’t good news for India’s solar power producers who have anyway been struggling over the past 2 months with Chennai customs stalling the clearance of Solar panels – classifying them as “DC Generators” and levying a 7.5% duty on the import of Solar modules, which have for the past 7 years been imported under the HSN Code 8541 and been exempt from the levy of any Customs Duty.
India’s solar growth has further been impacted by flat power demand, as the government struggles to incentivise manufacturing, and the rapid pace at which the centre and states were holding auctions for solar projects has slowed significantly as developers struggle to sign PPAs for tenders they have already secured and EPCs struggle to execute projects which they have already been awarded.
As a result the sector is lagging India’s target of installing 100 gigawatts (GW, or 1,000 megawatts) of plants by 2022.
The ADD is likely to make projects even less viable. Developers are already being forced to quote low tariffs to win the few available projects, risking low returns, and an increase in costs due to the duties would add even more pressure.
The basic math for setting up a solar plant is that 1MW costs around Rs6 crore, according to Rupesh Sankhe, senior analyst at Reliance Securities, a brokerage. His estimate is that if a developer wants a return on investment of around 14%, then the tariff needs to be in the range of between Rs4.5 and Rs5 per kWh. “If they come below Rs3 (per kWh), then the return will be zero,” Sankhe said. “No matter what they do, they won’t make profits.”
With the levy of a significant Anti dumping duty the math of Solar being a profitable investment would stop making any sense, and the offtakers for power would reduce even further. “If the duty is very sharp, the tariff will go up very sharply and…the discoms (distribution companies) will not buy the power. Then the solar sector will come down dramatically,” said Sunil Jain, CEO of Hero Future Energies
There are an approximate 11 GW of solar projects in the pipeline as per industry sources at the time of publishing this article, and they would all be undeniably jeopardised by the levy of a provisional duty or Anti-Dumping Duty. Further, projects which are yet to be auctioned and assigned to power producers, which are estimated to be ~3 GW would also be hit, and India’s Sunrise Industry would be clouded by pollution emanating from the burning of a desire to make India a global leader in an industry before it’s due time.