Manufacturing, Affordability And Efficiency in Focus at CEO Session Solar Tech Summit

The CEO’s session at the first World Solar Technology Summit by the ISA saw head honchos make a strong pitch for a broader manufacturing supply chain, besides the need to maintain the price trajectory and seek higher efficiency.

ceo session

Speakers At The CEO Session OF FWSTS

In a session moderated by Jeanette Rodrigues, Mumbai bureau chief of Bloomberg LP, gloal CEO’s weighed in on the key imperatives for solar to spread further.

Anand Mahindra, Chairman of the Mahindra Group with a strong presence in solar power development through group firm Mahindra Susten, made a strong case for domestic manufacturing. “A more aggressive stance in the solar space have almost been forced upon us. Our manufacturing facilities are woefully inadequate. We need manufacturing pre-eminence. A sustainable domestic manufacturing sector can create 50,000 direct jobs  in the next 5 years”, he said.  Mr Mahindra was also keen to see the government take the initiative, along with top developers, to start an innovation prize in solar, to channelise more high quality focus on the segment.

Supporting the argument was Uday Kotak, Managing Director of Kotak Mahindra Bank. Mr Kotak made a strong pitch for the creation of a development financial institution for the renewables sector, besides the possible addition of funding to the sector under priority sector lending. That, in his view, was critical if India is to seriously consider doubling its renewable capacity from he current 88 GW to 175 GW by 2022, and the higher targets beyond. rReferring to the gap between domestic supply and demand, Mr Kotak called it one of the biggest opportunities in India today, and ” one of those unique scale ups that India can achieve”. He also highlighted the opportunity in storage. He referred to the unfair disadvantage developers in India face, with interest rates in the 8-11 percent range versus sub 5 percent in most developed markets and China. The asset-liability mismatch of bank deposits(3-5 years)  versus project lifetimes in the sector (15 years or more) made bank financing an inappropriate option for the sector, he said.

Swiss Psychiatrist and Balloonist, Bertrand Piccard, the  initiator, chairman, and co-pilot, with André Borschberg, of Solar Impulse, the first successful round-the-world solar-powered flight also joined in with a very strong pitch. Piccard spoke about the need to look beyond capacities and production, to more energy efficiencies. “Business as usual’ cannot go on, and urged regulators to start tightening rules to drive change. “One has to show the advantage people can get out of the change. Continuing with the status quo is insane, when it comes to how we use the energy we produce”. ON his own pioneering flight on the Solar Impulse, Piccard highlighted that their focus was not on producing more energy to fly, but on making its use more efficient.

Dr. Sangita Reddy, FICCI Chairman and Joint Managing Director of Apollo Hospitals and Enterprises spoke about the critical  role of energy access in the healthcare sector, and the role solar power can play in off grid or poorly served locations. She highlighted her own group’s efforts, with solar power at all hospital terraces, besides a decision to go for EV charging across all sites now.

Eric Rondolat, CEO at Dutch Lighting major Signify, made a strong push for universal lighting access for all by 2030. ” We need both centralized and distributed solar systems. Solar lighting can be found in more than 30,000 villages In Africa, but we are seeing access to electricity slowing down. The challenge is how do we aggregate demand and create business models that provide people with low income energy  access. An ecosystem, that provides onsite tech support,  and financing to make this happen”.

Jean-Pascal Tricoire, CEO at Schneider Electric focused on the need to see the larger energy opportunity. Rephrasing the energy transition as a possible energy revolution, Tricoire highlighted his firm’s strong focus on India, especially after the $2 billion acquisition of L&T’s electricals business. ” There is an opportunity to leapfrog in terms of technology in many places where energy access is just starting”, he said.

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Prasanna Singh

Prasanna Singh

Prasanna has been a media professional for over 20 years. He is the Group Editor of Saur Energy International

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