Indian solar market to more than double to 1.8 GW in 2015

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Mercom Capital has released its India Solar Market Update, which predicts that annual installations in India will more than double in 2015 to 1.8 GW. “I’ve never forecast this high for India,” Mercom CEO Prabhu told pv magazine. “But that’s the pipeline that we have. A lot of these are already in place.”

2014 is another story. Mercom counts only 734 MW installed in the year to date, which it predicts will rise to around 800 MW by the end of the year. This will be a 20% decline on 2013 market volume, however 2013 was also not an impressive year, with very slight market growth over 2012.

One of the problems faced in 2014 has been national elections, which delayed land acquisition for solar projects and pushed back timelines.

All of this is set to change in 2015. And while project deadlines from previous batches of the National Solar Mission (NSM) will account for some of the anticipated 2015 market volume, a strong future for India’s solar market is being driven by national developments and can be traced back to new Modi Administration.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi has greatly increased national ambitions, with discussion of raising the NSM to 100 GW by 2022. This includes ramping up targets for the next few phases, with goals to install 15 GW over the next five years.

As an initial step, new guidelines for Phase 2, Batch 2 tranche 1 of the NSM call for 3 GW. Tranches have also been split into sub-sections, with 1 GW in the first part.

In India, there is always the question of whether or not increasing ambitions will be enabled with practical policy support. However, here as well the Modi Administration appears to be delivering. Chiefly, the Administration declined to act on the imposition of import tariffs on solar products for four nations, which analysts feared would stifle the nations’ solar market.

In another important move, the Modi Administration is requiring states to supply the land for solar projects under the NSM. “Project developers won’t have to deal with private landowners, buying land,” explains Prabhu. “That was the single biggest issue. Land is expensive, and then there are all the paperwork issues.”

Additionally, India’s many state-owned companies are now responsible for meeting renewable purchase obligations, an area which has suffered from lax enforcement in the past.

For such projects the Modi Administration is requiring the use of domestically produced modules. Since this is a government procurement WTO rules prohibiting domestic content do not apply, and Modi can safely appease domestic manufacturers.

Prabhu says that the Modi Administration’s seriousness about renewable energy has “percolated to states”, with both Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka already launching state auctions.