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“It is clear that the odds are stacked against domestic manufacturers. Doing business on-the-ground is difficult with India close to bottom on the ‘Ease of doing business’ rankings and manufacturers facing high costs for land, debt financing, power and other inputs,” says Vinay Rustagi, MD of renewable energy market firm Bridge to India.

New Delhi, June 30, 2017: Solar energy may be growing in popularity, but that seems to be of little cheer for most domestic solar companies which are hurting from a deluge of Chinese imports.

During FY17, India exported solar modules and cells worth USD 69 million and imported USD 3.2 billion. Compared to FY16, solar imports grew by 36 percent and exports declined by 60 percent.

Of the total imports, 88.1 percent came from China in FY17, this accounted for about 5.7 GW capacity of solar modules in the last fiscal.

“India has more than doubled its solar capacities from 2015 (5 GW) to 2017 (12 GW). The aggressive solar implementation clearly speaks about Government’s intent towards making India solarised,” Ivan Saha, BU Head, Solar Manufacturing at Vikram Solar told Moneycontrol.

“However, it is surprising to see that India is still focusing on importing solar modules (from China mainly). Since these modules are 8-10 percent cheaper than that of the domestic modules, demand scale of domestic manufacturers is decreasing significantly” Saha adds.

“It is clear that the odds are stacked against domestic manufacturers. Doing business on-the-ground is difficult with India close to bottom on the ‘Ease of doing business’ rankings and manufacturers facing high costs for land, debt financing, power and other inputs,” says Vinay Rustagi, MD of renewable energy market firm Bridge to India.

Since increasing the solar energy target under JNNSM to 100 GW from 20 GW earlier, the Indian government’s priority in the sector, so far, has been increasing generation capacity and lowering tariffs.

That focus has hurt the prospects of domestic manufacturers who are unable to compete with Chinese imports.

“Indian falling solar tariff perfectly fits into this dilemma. Current solar tariff of Rs 2.62 per unit is actually about a 90 percent fall from 2011. And although, this tariff drop has been identified by the government as a way to reach grid parity with coal, it is making investors willing to select cheap foreign solar panels to protect their ROI instead of going to domestic manufacturers,” Saha says.

“Continuously reducing solar tariff and focusing on solar module imports will certainly push domestic manufacturers out of the game. Continuing to import solar modules will also make Indian solar dream dependant to foreign preference, which is not synonymous to being solar reliant which Indian solar vision reflects,” he adds.


Over reliance on a single country puts Indian solar sector at a risk of disruption in global supply chain and change in Chinese government policy.

"Chinese module suppliers have already claimed a large portion of market share in Indian solar market, accounting for 8 out of top 10 module suppliers in India," Saha says.

"Besides the obvious and unfair fight, Indian module manufacturers are also bearing the brunt of decreasing DCR category projects," Saha points out citing the example that under the NSM Phase-II Batch-4, only 25 MW was given to DCR from the 225 MW capacity tendered.

“Lack of financing And lack of having a policy framework that supports domestic manufacturing are piling up huge hurdles in front of Indian solar vision,” Saha adds.

By FY17 the government had raised over Rs 54,000 crore from the clean energy cess on coal but only Rs 12,427 crore was added to renewable energy.


China has been invested billions of dollars in subsidies and other support measures to scale up solar manufacturing and dominate the global market within a span of few years. As a result, China has seen a massive increase in manufacturing capacity from 23 GW in 2013 to over 70 GW today despite steep fall in prices.

The Indian government did try to safeguard local companies by introducing the domestic content requirement (DCR) policy but it fell flat as India lost a hearing filed by the US against the protectionist policy.

Recently, the Indian Solar Manufacturers Association (ISMA) filed a new anti-dumping petition against solar imports from China, Taiwan, and Malaysia with the Directorate General of Anti-Dumping (DGAD), for which a decision is still pending.

Experts believe that such protectionist measures are not viable in the long run and will not solve the problems of Indian manufacturers.

“The government needs to take a macroscopic, long-term view on importance of domestic manufacturing and what support needs to be provided to them. Any financial support in the form of subsidies or cost rebates should be structured so as to improve long-term viability rather than help them survive for another 1-2 years (as happened with DCR regulations),” Rustagi says.

“The feasibility of imposing import or anti-dumping duties may also be examined but any such duties should be phased-in gradually so that the project developers, investors and DISCOMs are not adversely affected,” he adds

An increasing reliance on imports in a growing and strategically important sector is creating various stress points and raises the risk of a knee-jerk policy reaction by the government which has, until now, been unable to effectively support domestic manufacturing, a recent report by Bridge to India says.

“India desperately needs to change the situation, as it is not just about saving the domestic manufacturers, it is about saving the solar vision which involves bringing socio-economic transformation in the country,” Saha says.

“However, if millions and billions are being spent on imports, it won’t help make new jobs, infrastructural developments, and skill development, which can change India from grass root level. Therefore, India needs to focus on developing domestic manufacturing capacities, which can make Indian dream of solar reliance a reality,” he adds.

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