India’s Safeguard Duty Move has Not Helped Much: Sudhir Aggarwal

India’s move to impose safeguard duty on import of solar cells and modules last year hasn’t helped domestic manufacturers much. While import of solar cells and modules from China have declined since the duty was implemented in July 2018, India still imported USD 1.9 billion worth of panels in the 11 months ended June 30, says Sudhir Aggarwal, Executive Director, Patanjali Renewable Energy. In conversation with Manu Tayal, Associate Editor, Saur Energy International, Aggarwal shared his views on various issues which the India’s solar sector is currently dealing with along with his company’s latest product offerings, manufacturing facilities, future expansion plans etc. Here’re the excerpts from that exclusive interview published in the Saur Energy International Magazine’s September 2019 edition:

Sudhir Aggarwal, Executive Director, Patanjali Renewable Energy

Sudhir Aggarwal, Executive Director, Patanjali Renewable Energy

Q. Do tell us about Patanjali Renewable Energy and your latest product offerings.

PREPL (Patanjali Renewable Energy Pvt. Ltd.) is a completely new division of the Patanjali Group.

Having a vision to expand its horizons to cater to the power and electricity needs of the people across India, PREPL has set up a fully automated state of the art solar PV module manufacturing plant.

We have made a basket of the most widely accepted products in the most affordable price bracket.

Our product range includes:

a) Solar PV panels

b) Batteries

  • Solar Batteries
  • Inverter Batteries

c) Inverters

  • 3 Off Grid PWM
  • Off Grid MPPT
  • On Grid (Grid Tie Inverters)
  • Hybrid Inverters

d) Solar Street lights

  • Integrated
  • Semi Integrated

Soon we will be venturing into Solar Water Pumps as well specially to cater to the need of our farmers.

Q. What is the scope for lithium-ion battery manufacturing in India? Do you see any bottlenecks for domestic manufacturers?

Rising penetration of electric vehicles, substantial investments in clean and renewable energy sources, and the recently launched Make in India campaign are expected to boost the demand for Li-ion batteries at a tremendous pace in the coming years in the country. Government of India has launched New Electric Mobility Mission Plan 2020, which projects to have 6-7 million electric vehicles running on Indian roads by 2020. Smart city projects and Green Energy Corridor for power generation from renewable sources would add to the overall installed capacity, thereby increasing the demand for energy storage batteries.

We believe standardised policies and quality control need to be made stringent so that the domestic manufacturer can take care of the quality of the cells being imported by them.

Q. In current scenario, with safeguard duty wind down also started, how do you see the scope for domestic module manufacturers in the country?

India’s move to impose safeguard duty on import of solar cells and modules last year hasn’t helped domestic manufacturers much. While import of solar cells and modules from China have declined since the duty was implemented in July 2018, India still imported USD 1.9 billion worth of panels in the 11 months ended June 30, according to government data.

We see that government policies will play a vital role as in recent tenders, it was mentioned that Indian panels and cells must be used. So such initiatives for Make in India will definitely boost domestic module manufacturing business in the country.

Q. What is your current market share on the domestic front along with your major client base?

“Patanjali” as a brand is popular among the masses. But that client base is for FMCG products and this sector is totally different from that.

So in comparison, Patanjali in the Renewable Energy front is yet to touch the hearts of the people on that scale, but yes the journey has started. Solar powered energy initially was viable for industries and government projects, but we have set our primal objective to reach to the people in the remotest of areas and provide them affordable sustainable energy. That will be our market share.

Q. Tell us something about Patanjali’s manufacturing facilities in India? Do you have a R&D division?

We have incorporated a modern state of the art automated solar PV module manufacturing facility in Greater Noida, Delhi NCR. It’s a 60 MW plant and we are on the verge of expanding our capacity.

We have setup a testing lab conducting various quality tests like house mechanical load test, Gel content test, wet leakage test, cable robustness test etc. Our R&D team keeps drilling into our products and processes to create new technology, products, services or systems. A separate repair & maintenance team has developed a “Jig” which enables us to run numerous tests on all our products, post and pre-production to make the desired quality product, the best in class.

Q. Besides solar polycrystalline modules, what are Patanjali’s other product offerings for the renewables? Have you considered manufacturing mono crystalline modules too?

PREPL has a wide range of products as mentioned above. Yes currently we are manufacturing only polycrystalline modules, but very soon we will see Patanjali Mono Crystalline modules as well in the market.

Q. Does Patanjali have any further expansion/ investment plans for the near future?

We have an expansion planned to increase our module manufacturing capacity to approx. 200 MW by beginning of next year. Also we will go for some backward integration as well for some of our products.

Q. Besides modules, is Patanjali Renewable also planning to enter into cell manufacturing in India?

Yes, maybe when the policies of the government will be favourable and when we see a good potential in the market.

Q. Patanjali has been focused on rooftop and distributed solar sales too. What are your expectations from this market? Do you see an opportunity for brand building in this segment?

Solar energy sector is majorly divided into 4 sectors: Industrial, Residential, Institutional and Government projects. Each sector has a huge potential in terms of business, but the biggest opportunity we feel is residential sector. People are nowadays curious to go healthy, turn environmentalist, looking for pollution free solutions and what not. With solar coming in picture, keeping its affordability factor, ease of installation, life span and its benefits over other sources of energy, there comes huge opportunity.

Sure there are challenges in this sector too but a good brand like Patanjali can leverage the most out of this sector. Our only proposition is to maintain the trust that people have in our brand with respect to quality and pricing.

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Manu Tayal

Manu is an Associate Editor at Saur Energy International where she writes and edits clean & green energy news, featured articles and interview industry veterans with a special focus on solar, wind and financial segments.