Delays, disputes and elections to slow India solar growth, predict analysts

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Analysts have predicted slow growth for India’s solar market this year due to delays in implementing its waning national solar mission.

The national solar mission (JNNSM) in India has a target for 1.1GW to be installed during the fiscal year 2013-14, and an overall target for 20GW by 2022.

Solar analyst, Bridge to India has compared installations globally to find JNNSM lacking. Globally, 39GW was installed in 2013, China installed 12GW last year with a national target of 35GW by 2015. Japan and the US installed 4GW last year.

Bridge to India also predicts a lacklustre year due to State solar policy and a slow start for the JNNSM’s phase II.

The JNNSM phase II draft was released in December 2012, but final calls for bids were not until a year later, December 2013 – PPA signings have also been delayed.

Energy market research firm, Mercom Capital Group predicts 1GW to be installed in India for 2014 – stagnant with 1,004MW installed in 2013, and 986MW in 2012.

Mercom predicts slow growth as no national solar projects are to come online until mid 2015 and “CSP projects have stalled” adding State solar policies are “all over the map”, as India also becomes a hotbed for a bubbling trade dispute with the US.

Mercom said “difficulties with project economic viability stemming from reverse auctions that have pushed down project margins”, the lack of implementation for a Renewable Purchase Obligation, and a national election on the way, are causing tremors in India’s solar market.

However in light of rising diesel prices, Raj Prabhu, CEO and co-founder of Mercom Capital Group said the solar market in India “looks better and better every day”, adding that “the case for solar in India will remain strong as long as the relevant policy goals address power shortages that affect millions of Indians, businesses, industries and agriculture,” said Prabhu.

The mandatory domestic content requirement is one policy that is being debated as earlier this week, the Indian government revealed the financial bid results for its auction for 750MW of solar energy, as part of JNNSM Phase II, with trade disputing US firm, First Solar missing out.

First Solar has previously dominated India’s thin-film market via a loophole in previous JNNSM bids, now closed, which did not include thin-film modules under the domestic content requirement (DCR). The company has worked with the US Export-Import Bank on a number of projects in India.

In September 2013, solar energy consultant, Bridge to India, published its solar ‘industry map’, revealing 42% of modules used in India are thin-film modules, with US-based First Solar taking the highest market share and Canadian Solar the highest of crystalline silicon modules.

In August 2012 local sustainability think-tank the Centre for Science and Environment (CSE) accused US thin-film manufacturers of exploiting the DCR “loop hole” to “ruin” the Indian domestic PV industry. CSE researchers claimed 80% of India’s manufacturing capacity was in disarray, forced to close or seek debt restructuring as a result.

The US filed a complaint to the World Trade Organisation earlier this month claiming that it should have equal access to India's procurement round. 

On the subject of the impact of the US trade dispute, Bridge to India analyst Jasmeet Khurana previously said First Solar had missed out “only based on the bid submitted by them. There are no political considerations. India is not that investment unfriendly”.

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