The ministry of new and renewable energy’s (MNRE’s) recent decision to include open access and net metering projects under the approved list of models and manufacturers (ALMM) for solar modules will mean Indian non-residential rooftop projects are out of bounds for Chinese manufacturers. None of the foreign makers, including those from China, have been approved under the ALMM list.
On January 14, MNRE amended the ALMM norms, stating only BIS-approved ALMM modules would be eligible for use in open access and net metering projects. Earlier, the ALMM entry was must for supplies to the government and government-assisted projects. The amendments will be effective from April 1, 2022.
Chinese solar panel manufacturers use to cater to 85% of India’s module requirements.
Over 95% of renewable projects in India have private ownership. “Open access and net metering projects are also government-assisted projects hence instead of issuing a clarification we have made an amendment to the guidelines to remove confusion,” an MNRE official said.
Puneet Goyal, co-founder of EPC firm SunAlpha Energy, said the move to include open access and net metering in ALMM is against free trade as it directly supports local manufacturers, who are bound to take advantage of the situation and sell the panels at higher prices. In effect, all the discoms and consumers will have to bear the brunt. “It is interesting to note that all along open access projects were kept away from the purview of force majeure and change in law during the Covid,” Goyal said.
Top Chinese module manufacturers supplying to India believe that India must not overlook the fact that foreign investors who have invested in the country’s renewable companies have given a mandate to only use high efficiency modules that are above 550 watt peak capacity. “Barring a couple of Indian manufacturers approved under the ALMM list, not many companies have the capacity to meet such high efficiency requirements. Such moves against foreign suppliers will have a negative impact on RE investments,” Manish Narula, senior director of business development (India) at Jinko Solar, said.
However, Indian manufacturers believe the move will benefit them to build integerated capacities of not just modules but even of raw materials as the industry has been helped by the production-linked incentive (PLI) scheme as well.
Hitesh Doshi, CMD, Waaree Energies, told FE that it’s a great development for Indian consumers, since they were facing a lot of problem in servicing the Chinese panels. “Most EPC players are working on thin margins and they do not budget for servicing when the panels are dumped at extremely low prices from China. We have replaced several of such panels in India,” said Doshi. Under ALMM, 11 GW has been approved, while applications for 5 GW are pending. As of today, 16 GW is the capacity of the country, while 50 GW has been approved under PLI . “So, there is enough competition between local manufacturers to give a right price to the consumers,” said Doshi.
Gyanesh Chaudhary, vice chairman and MD, Vikram Solar, said, this development will help enable procurement of quality and reliable modules from domestic suppliers, propel solar adoption and protect the investments made by domestic module manufacturers. The move will also attract further investments into expanding manufacturing capacities. “With PLI, the domestic manufacturers may increase their capacity with complete backward integration. This would create the ecosystem for domestic solar manufacturing and reduce our import dependence,” Chaudhary said.