There’s a dire need of stability in policies, commitment and political will: Sushil Bansal

With the date for imposition of a fresh Basic Customs Duty on cell and module import drawing nearer, manufacturers in India are look to the future with guarded optimism. We spoke to Sushil Bansal, the Founder and Managing Director at Novasys Greenergy, an established firm with a 100MW capacity. Sushil has been responsible for the group’s fray into renewable energy. Here’re the excerpts from that exclusive interview published in the Saur Energy International Magazine’s July 2020 edition:

Q. As the government moves towards a BCD regime on duties, we have heard numbers from 20 to 50 percent . What is your recommendation?

Sushil Bansal Novasys Greenergy

Sushil Bansal, Founder & MD at Novasys Greenergy

The imposition of BCD on imports of solar modules and cells is a welcome move by the government. Though the quantum is not yet finalised, it is expected that BCD shall be increasing in steps. However, there should be a substantial difference in the BCD structure of imported cells and modules. According to market conditions, minimum BCD of 30% on modules and 15% on cells should be imposed which will create ample difference in the predatory pricing by Chinese manufacturers. It should stepwise be increased upto 40% and 20% on modules and cells.

Q. Do you believe this latest push for manufacturing would work? Does Novasys plan to expand capacity now ?

Yes, government’s emphasis on “Vocal for Local” shall definitely work for the Indian manufacturers. However, the tenure of duties is very crucial as it will boost confidence among manufacturers and pump in new investments for backward integration of solar supply chain. We have plans to expand to 300MW which can make all types of latest modules in c-si technology.

Q. With the utility sector driven by price, do you think our poor progress on rooftop solar has been a big factor in suppressing domestic expansion o manufacturing? What , in you view, is the best case for solar rooftop capacity additions in India?

To our dismay, the rooftop solar has certainly performed poorly during last one year. This is mainly due to discoms discouraging rooftop solar and uncertainty in policies. However, currently solar rooftop is not a driving force for module manufacturers. There are other areas such as solar pumps which have substantial consumption of solar panels. The capacity addition in module manufacturing has in fact doubled in the last 2 years.

Q. With a 100 MW capacity for Mono Perc and Bifacials, how do you market to your potential customers with what is a ‘premium’ offering in effect?

Our premium products are high efficiency mono perc modules which can reach upto 395-400 watt with full cell and Bifacial modules with Tedlar based transparent backsheet. This is our latest offering which ensures superior performance and reliability over non Tedlar based or Glass-glass modules. The generation from bifacial modules can increase upto 30% depending upon ambient conditions.

Q. When do you see utility scale projects using MonoPerc or even Bifacials at a larger scale in India ? Are we missing out in a big way by not considering these seriously?

Utility scale projects are currently price driven. The decision is based on Rs./Kw and not on Rs./Kwh. Few developers have realised it and are evaluating to shift to latest Bifacial modules which gives lower LCOE than conventional polycrystalline modules. Sooner or later everyone will shift to the new era. As the competition is intensifying, it has become need of hour to reduce the LCOE.

Q. How has your business been impacted by Covid-19? Do you see growth this year (2020-21) over 2019-20?

Most of the business has been badly affected by Covid-19 pandemic. Just before the Covid period, the solar installations were going on full scale. But due to lockdown, all projects got held up or postponed, especially private projects. The government’s priority also shifted to essential services. However, after the lockdown got lifted, the momentum is getting back and trying to catch the same pace due to government projects getting resumed and new tenders coming up. I believe that the growth in the remaining quarters will overtake the relatively slower growth in the first quarter of current financial year.

Q. What is the one single reform that could galvanise the whole renewable energy  sector in India today?  What is the biggest risk to the sector, and your business that you see today?

The solar industry is completely dependent upon government policies. Due to political differences between Center and state governments, there can be situations where the policies or agreements get rolled back. For instance, the recent imbroglio in Andhra Pradesh to renegotiate the already signed PPA, shook off investor’s confidence and dampened the investment climate. There’s a dire need of stability in policies, commitment and political will of government which can take the solar sector to another level

Q. We recently saw price bid at Rs 2.36 a unit for a tender. What is your view on long term prices over the coming 3 years and beyond?

In the short term, the prices seem to be getting corrected due to expected BCD announcement and “Make in India” push by the government. However, in the long run, once there is ample domestic capacity, the prices will continue the downward trend.

Q. Anything else you would like to highlight about Novasys plans, the market as you see it.

We plan to adopt and bring latest developments in the module technologies to India such as modules based on 9BB cells, M6- M10 sized wafers. This will save lot of space, balance of system cost and increase efficiency of solar modules which is ideal for roof top applications.

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