Green energy: Solar power accounts for 50% capacity addition in 2018

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Updated: March 03, 2019 6:59 AM

Issues like GST, safeguard duty, and land and transmission, however, took a toll on large-scale power installation due to which overall Indian solar market was down 15.5% in FY18.

Investments in the solar sector, however, dropped 15% in 2018 over the investment made in 2017 and it totalled to $9.84 billion.

Solar power for the first time in India made over 50% power capacity addition in 2018 although GST, safeguard duty, and land and transmission issues took a toll on large-scale power installation to whose effect the overall Indian solar market was down 15.5% in FY18, according to Mercom India Research’s newly published report. The Indian solar market installed 8,263 MW in FY18 compared to 9,782 MW in FY17. But rooftop solar had a good year, growing 66% year-on-year (YoY).

Of the total installed capacity in 2018, large-scale projects accounted for 6,608 MW, which was 23% lower than the capacity added in 2017. Rooftop installations came to 1,665 MW in 2018. Total power capacity additions from all sources was 16.3 GW in 2018, of which renewable energy accounted for nearly 70% of installations, with solar representing 50.7% of new capacity and wind with 14%. Coal accounted for 27.5% of the new capacity added. “We will continue to see a steady shift toward solar as prices continue to drop. This is going to be the new normal as coal plants continue to shutter,” Raj Prabhu, CEO and co-founder of Mercom Capital Group, said.

In the fourth quarter of 2018, solar installations came to 1,638 MW, up 3% quarter-to-quarter from the 1,589 MW installed during the third quarter of 2018. But this was 52% lower y-o-y compared to the 2,491 MW installed in the fourth quarter of 2017.

Rooftop installations in 2018 totalled 1,655 MW, a 66% growth y-o-y taking cumulative rooftop solar installations to 3,260 MW. In terms of annual growth, rooftop solar continues to be a bright spot, as commercial and industrial entities see it as a viable way to combat higher power tariffs. Following a significant increase of 50% q-o-q growth from the fourth quarter of 2017 to the first quarter of 2018, installation growth remained steady for the rest of the year. But financing rooftop installations could be challenging in 2019 since Indian banks are facing a liquidity crunch, with many hitting the exposure limits to the power sector, the report said.

Investments in the solar sector, however, dropped 15% in 2018 over the investment made in 2017 and it totalled to $9.84 billion. The year was highlighted by 11 mega tenders of 1 GW in size.

The report found that solar parks continue to face issues in providing clearly demarcated ready land for project development, causing undue delays and putting additional pressure on large-scale projects. The market is adjusting to the safeguard duty regime, but much will depend on Chinese solar policy and installation goals in the future.
Any increase in installation targets in China will tighten supplies and harden module prices, while oversupply and module price declines could result if China decides to pull back on its solar installation targets. Tariff caps and retroactive cancellation of solar auctions have been the biggest concerns in the investment community, Prabhu said, adding that the rules of the election commission could affect land acquisition and government approvals for solar projects, but the elections could increase power demand.

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