Indian Solar Event: India’s solar showcase attracts over 10,000 attendees

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Large-scale solar in India was given a showcase last week when Honourable Chief Minister of Gujarat, Narendra Modi, dedicated over 600MW of commissioned solar projects to the nation. The celebration of Indian solar innovation and ambition was delivered to over 10,000 people at the Charanka Solar Park – a 200MW facility in the North Western state of Gujarat, close to the Pakistan border.

The inauguration ceremony was part of the Indian Solar Investment and Technology Summit (ISIT), organised by Solar Media, which took place in India’s first solar city – Gandhinagar. The event, which attracted over 750 international and domestic attendees and over 60 exhibiting companies, was hosted by the Government of Gujarat, with Mr DJ Pandian, India’s most celebrated solar policy maker, personally welcoming the attendees during his opening speech. Mr Pandian was joined by former Minister of Power from the Government of India, Mr Suresh Prabhu, who outlined the importance of energizing India through renewable energy sources to deliver continued double-digit economic growth over future years.

International speakers from the finance and investment communities, Sunil Gupta of Standard Chartered and Laurence Mulliez of Eoxis, shared a platform with project developers Benoit Fortin of SkyPower and Craig Nalder of Sustainable Power Producers to deliver their experiences of the global solar market and how Indian solar can learn from the challenges that countries such as Spain, Australia and Canada have all faced with their respective solar objectives.

Policy makers from other leading Indian ‘renewable energy’ states including Karnataka and Bihar outlined a wider understanding of what other regions are doing to emulate Gujarat in creating policies that are actually working to create significant opportunities for solar developers. Financing solar projects has been one of the key challenges for project developers across India over the last few years and solutions to attracting investments and achieving financial closure on projects were discussed during a lively debate and Q&A session with speakers from L&T Infra, Nexgen Financial Solutions and Green Infra.

Mr Bernhard Beck, CEO of Belectric, provided the keynote session for day 2 of the event and delivered an inspiring speech on ensuring project returns through the utilization of innovative technological solutions and optimized costing strategies. There had been a lot of talk at the event regarding SunEdison’s rooftop projects and their Head of Business Development outlined the company's plans to take solar to the roof-tops of India, thereby exploiting space that is currently under-utilized in India but is seen as a huge area for significant solar growth across the globe.

Infrastructure issues have long been a thorn in the side of developers and utility companies and this common challenge to getting a project up and running was delivered by Mr Ravi Khanna of Aditya Birla group, one of the biggest investors in the state of Gujarat.  Mr Khanna stated the importance of infrastructure and how it plays a key role in the timely execution of projects in a cost-effective manner.

The final session of the event was arguably the highlight of the conference; with the hall still packed, seven solar leaders took to the podium to deliver their thoughts on The Future of Indian Solar. Two developers, Alan Rosling of Kiran Energy and Inderpreet Wadwha of Azure Power discussed with the audience their plans for future developments, whilst the local manufacturing issues and challenges were eloquently delivered by HR Gupta of Indosolar and Gyanesh Chaudhary of Vikram Solar, both of whom challenged the developers to become more supportive of local content and manufacturing.

The conference was wrapped up by Mr DJ Pandian who enlightened the audience with the history of solar in Gujarat and his reasons as to why the ambitious targets that the state has set itself can and will be achieved, now that a platform has been laid from which investors and developers can see the state's progress. Mr Pandian also encouraged international companies to continue to invest in projects in the region and guaranteed that there will be no requirement of local content in Gujarat, as the objective in the state is to deliver their promise of solar deployment, no matter where the product derives from.

Mr Pandian would not be drawn on when new policy would be announced for Phase 3 of the Gujarat Solar Mission, but did state that it was still some time off. He did, however, deliver a rousing speech which left the entire audience assured that solar in Gujarat is of the upmost importance not only to Mr Pandian, but the Honourable Chief Minister and will therefore remain a hugely attractive region for global investors and local developers alike for many years to come.

Reporting by Stewart Bundock, Events Organiser, Solar Media Ltd.

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