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Interview with Kushagra Nandan, President, COO & Co-Founder, SunSource Energy

Kushagra Nandan

SunSource Energy develops, engineers, procures, constructs, and operates solar power plants and projects, to help Clients in institutional, industrial, commercial and non-profit sectors use solar energy more intelligently and efficiently. Kushagra Nandan, President, COO  & Co-Founder, SunSource Energy in an exclusive tête-à-tête with Santanu Mukherjee, Sr. Journalist, Saur Energy International shares about the challenges in the rooftop segment, strategy to move business forward in the country, company’s ‘Be a Partner’ program, recent accomplishments and more. 

Q. As compared to other markets, how challenging is India for the company? What is your strategy if you have to move your business forward in the country?

SunSource focuses on decentralised projects in India as part of its strategy. These projects range from 100 kWp to few MWs, and typically built on rooftops or otherwise as captive generation as “behind the meter” projects. We have been consistent in our focus for nearly five years, based on our belief, confirmed since by the market, that this market provides a year’s long ramp for committed, long term player like us. We have currently built more than a 100 projects for commercial and industrial (C&I) clients across 18+ states in India.

Competition as a whole doesn’t bother us as we believe in providing a cost effective and high quality solution to our clients. However, as a promising new industry we have attracted a lot of entry into this market. Many of these new players bring small pieces of the puzzle to the market but often lack in core capabilities. Moreover, they create unhealthy price competition that distorts the market. We are helping our clients to discern the same.

Q. How the company is planning to create a competitive advantage and emerge as a formidable player in Rooftop segment?

We think we are a strong player already in the rooftop segment. An indication of this is our track record of nearly a 100 projects across 18+ states successfully delivered over nearly five years, with reliably operational projects. But even more so, is the fact that we have all the capability for these complicated projects in house, ranging from thorough site visits and feasibility studies, to complete design capability including structural, and execution capability second to none.

Our roster of clients includes repeat clients such as Max Bupa, as well as large manufacturers such as Abbott Healthcare, Bajaj and commercial buildings such as the India Habitat Centre. Our projects have been financed by many of the largest investors, with whom we have strong tie ups and have worked repeatedly, is also an indication of where we’ve been and where we are going in terms of competitive strengths.

Q. Please share how do you make sure consistency, risk-free yields and durability of your projects?

It’s not easy. However we use a combination of strong engineering capability, execution and strong on-site management as the method. Of course you have to use high quality, fully vetted components.

Q. Share us about the company’s ‘Be a Partner’ program and selection criteria of your partners?

We select our partners carefully, and work with the successful ones repeatedly over long periods. We believe that maintaining such consistency and mutual fairness over the long term, through good periods and bad, is the way to have such fruitful associations.

Q. Recently the solar power tariff slipped to an all-time low of Rs 4 per unit which is the maximum rate fixed by SECI. How the drop in tariff is affecting EPC players and what will be the lowest tariff do you expect by 2022?

You probably are indicating about large MW projects. We largely don’t play in that segment so far, but to answer your question, the EPC players are seeing eroding margins and have to innovate business models and cost structures to be successful. We prefer not to speculate on prices in future government tenders.

Q. What should be done to boost the adoption of rooftop solar in the country?

Better implementation of government policies. The policies are there to promote everything needed for the rooftop market, from financing directions and priority sector lending directions to banks, to net metering support, to the start of simplification of regulations for interconnection to grid. However as a concurrent subject power is dependent on positive attitudes from both central and state governments and also Discoms. The latter, ie state governments and Discoms which currently need to become positive for rooftop solar to take off.

Of course long term economics trend in case of rooftops, to the point where eventually customers will evaluate whether to disconnect from the grid.

Q. What type of growth will the off-grid market witness in the next couple of years?

Depends on prevailing current tariffs and future trends in availability and pricing. Storage based mini grids will start to become more prevalent in day C&I campuses which face high tariffs and or outages. SunSource built its first school campus storage based mini grid in eastern UP in 2013 and is ready for that market.

The prevailing paradigm of solar home systems and street lights will over time get subsumed in the somewhat larger but still decentralised (may be grid connected but will have off grid capability) solar market.

Q. Tell us about your recent accomplishments and key highlights of this year?

We now are present in four countries including US, India and South East Asia. We are developing and executing some very large projects along with sharp focus on rooftop segment. As the policies are starting to become clearer, we see an increase in market size over next few years but at the same time this industry will be a volume play, with focus quality and delivery.

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