India solar rebound not expected until 2021 as deployment continues to falter

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Downing's utility-scale solar farm in Kambadur. Image: Downing.

A strong rebound of utility-scale solar installations in India is not expected until 2021, with just 2.5GW expected to be deployed in the second half of this year, research from JMK Research & Analytics has found.

In its Q2 2020 update, JMK states that just 1GW of new utility-scale solar was deployed in India in the first half of the year, some 70% down on installations in H1 2019. This collapse was largely felt in the second quarter when, courtesy of the onset and continuing spread of COVID-19 in the country, just 304MW was installed.

That figure contrasts slightly with the 205MW of additional solar capacity charted by Mercom India Research late last week – a figure Mercom noted was the lowest quarterly deployment total since 2014 – but still points to a stark decline in market activity.

And it may be some time yet before momentum builds again. JMK places H2 2020 solar deployment in the 2.2 – 2.5GW range, figures which would constitute a sizeable decline in installs from what was installed last year.

It will not be until 2021 that India’s utility-scale solar market recovers, the research shows, with around 7.7GW of utility-scale solar forecast for deployment next year. That would constitute a similar level of deployment to that completed in 2019, but still short of the high recorded in 2017.

As a result, JMK expects module and inverter procurement to kickstart once again as the year progresses. Up to 8GW of solar modules and inverters are forecast to be procured in the second half of the year as developers begin to put concrete plans in place.

Equipment procurement in India remains a contentious topic given recent policy moves in the country designed to protect and incentivise domestic manufacturing. India recently extended the safeguard duty for another year, while an additional basic customs duty, rising from 20% this year to as much as 40% this year, remains a likely introduction at some point this year.

That is expected to have a significant impact on solar import practices, JMK said, and the firm noted a sizeable increase in solar imports in Q2 2020, which rose almost five-fold on imports recorded in the prior quarter.

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