Interview with Krishan Sharma, Vice President – Asia, ReneSola

For Krishan Kumar Sharma, a 12 year journey in the solar sector has taken him to Renesola, a leading module manufacturer, where he is the Vice President, South Asia. With his wide exposure to the solar markets in Asia, and through Renesola, the world, we caught up with him to get a view on the Covid-19 impact on the market.

Q. What are the key trends you are seeing in the demand and direction for Solar Modules in India?

Krishan Sharma, Vice President- Asia, ReneSola

Krishan Sharma, Vice President- Asia, ReneSola

Due to this unprecedented situation of outbreak of Covid-19, the past several months have been very challenging for everyone. Covid-19 pandemic is halting the life worldwide and industries are badly affected. The solar industry is not separated from the Covid-19 impact and delayed overall projects installation. This outbreak comes at a time when the demand of SPV modules would have been peaking in India as it was the end of the financial year.

Since the initial target was around 15-16 GW installation in 2020, this will drop to 8-10GW now, and even that is contingent on various factors like manpower, equipment supply etc. As most of the solar projects COD (Commissioning Date) has been delayed to 2nd half of 2020, which will lead to increase in module demand in Q3 & Q4 2020. In terms of Technology, we see an increasing demand of MONO PERC SPV Modules, however, Polycrystalline still is in demand due to better financial viability with it.

Q. What will be the overall Covid-19 impact on Solar Energy projects? When do you see a return to normalcy?

COVID-19 affected the Global Market so badly that it will take long time to recover from its impact, according to the recent figures millions of people are affected worldwide and the World Health Organisation (WHO) has officially declared it a global health emergency. Many companies across different sectors globally have ceased or decreased capital expenditures where possible, and the solar sector is no exception where C&I customers have postponed or cancelled their plan to opt solar as capital investment.

The Virus affected more than 188 countries as on date which is a threat to global trade as well. Unbalanced demand & supply in the Chinese market will definitely have an impact on the global Solar markets as they depend for the supplies of raw or finished products from China.

Countries around the world are taking steps to support the energy sector and to mitigate the negative effects of the crisis. There are myriad challenges that policy makers, regulators need to address to ensure energy security.

Most of the countries have taken special measures to ensure a safe and reliable energy supply by guaranteeing essential services non-effected by the lockdowns, as well as measures aimed to ease financial requirements on consumers who face economic difficulties during lock down (bill-paying measures for vulnerable consumers to avoid disconnections).

Due to this unprecedented situation of Covid-19, Supplies are continuously disrupting due to delay in Production, shortage of raw- material, transportation which forced several manufacturers to run their plants partially. Even the consignments of solar modules already manufactured are facing delays in transit to project sites on account of precautionary restrictions on transit at ports.

At present, India has installed approximately 35 GW of Solar PV projects. However, Covid-19 delayed overall project commissioning date, which will obviously impact on India’s ambitious target of achieving 100 GW solar projects installation by 2022.

There are serious concerns over Covid-19 in the context of project financing, delays of construction or disruption to operations. Projects in the development or pre-construction phase that are seeking financing are facing delays in closing deals. Lenders are wary of the current market volatility and could refrain from investing in the short term investments. Development based funds and banks are withholding the disbursement of funds for RE projects and that has stopped many projects of various scales.

I don’t think situation will get normal anytime soon. We are definitely not going to have a return to the pre-pandemic situation anytime soon. According to the World Health Organisation (WHO) corona virus will ‘be with us for long time’. Therefore we have to learn to live with Covid-19 till the vaccine gets developed. I read somewhere that an end can occur not because a disease has been vanquished but because people grow tired of panic mode and learn to live with a disease.

Q. What is your top offering in India in terms of sales/efficiency/latest technology?

Renesola has been supplying both the technologies Poly and Mono in Indian market. Poly has reached an average wattage of 340Wp modules while Mono Perc has reached 395Wp within the same Cell size of 156.

Recently, we have launched higher wattage of modules in 166 size cells achieving the average rating of 450Wp and the same will be available in Indian market by the end of July. As India is always price sensitive market, Poly modules are much more in demand due to price gap of around 2 cents in between poly and Mono PERC.

Q. Do you see solar +storage becoming significant soon? Will that have an impact on the module market also?

In order to tackle the grid stability issue due to volatile nature of the Solar PV Generation, the battery storage system will be a game changer. This will help to store power during day time and can provide backup of consistent power at peak time. Thus, the combination of Solar and storage would have an additional advantage of energy scheduling and peak shaving of demand. Recently market has witnessed a lot’s of initiatives from the government to promote the Energy Storage for large scale projects. The recent, Round The Clock (RTC) tender issued by SECI was oversubscribed by 550MW which itself states the potential of this segment. This will be a huge win for Indian power sector to rely on renewable energy in future which will provide round the clock power and remove the dependency on Thermal power plants which are highly polluting source of power.

I believe, solar + storage will be the future for renewable power industry. However, solar module market will grow exponentially with the combination of storage system,

Q. Which are your key global markets today?

Renesola has been supplied more than 20 GW globally, whereas India is and always been a key market for Renesola and supplied more than 2.5 GW solar PV modules. China, Brazil, Europe and Australia are the other key markets where Renesola is focusing on. Recently, Renesola has signed 150MW distribution modules supply agreement with Prosun for Australian market.

Q. With all the social restrictions on now, how is ReneSola gearing up to market itself? Is there a change in strategy to connect with customers and other stakeholders?

As we all know that current restrictions are easing out day by day and at least we believe that the situation will get better soon. However, in the meantime, we are exploring new ways to educate our clients about new technologies & products. Moreover, Renesola has appointed 2 channel partners in India to reach out to each and every client no matter how small is their requirement but want to serve every client irrespective of quantity.

Presently, Covid-19 situation is not allowing us to interact with customers & stakeholders in person but we are regularly using the online platforms to host the meetings and trainings.

Q. What is the biggest step the government could take to revive market demand in solar sector?

It’s really a need of the hour to revive solar market otherwise the whole solar industry may face big problem. Investors are expecting more favourable conditions in this crucial time.

The Government should direct DISCOMs to clear all pending dues of IPP’s immediately. Also, provide relaxation of safe guard duty on solar PV cells and modules to ease out some burden on project capex and make it more affordable for the small EPCs/ Small Developers who are already cash drained in this lockdown situation.

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