India to launch its own battery cell production

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On Sunday, India’s Ministry of Science & Technology made an announcement disclosing plans to bring lithium-ion cell manufacturing to India. According to the statement, the Central Electro Chemical Research Institute (CECRI) and Raasi solar power Pvt. Ltd. signed a memorandum of understanding for establishment of a manufacturing site in Bengaluru.

A group of researchers at CECRI, headed by Gopu Kumar, developed a new technology for lithium-ion cells. Following the development of the technology, CECRI set up a demonstration production facility in Chennai for the manufacturing of prototype lithium-ion cells.

The institute stresses that it has secured global intellectual property rights (IPRs) regarding the manufacturing of lithium-ion cells, enabling it to reduce production costs, allowing for mass production and commercialization.

The Raasi Group will set up the manufacturing facility in Krishnagiri, district of Tamil Nadu near Bangalore. “We want to bring down the cost of cell manufacturing below INR 15,000/KW (US$ 222) to replace lead acid batteries,” said Narasimhan. “We also have plans to make Lithium-ion batteries for solar roof-tops with a life span of 25 years at a price that is competitive in the PV segment.”

Reportedly, Indian manufacturers source batteries from China, Japan and South Korea resulting in nearly US$ 150 million in foreign exchange loss. According to Harsh Vardhan, speaking at the signing, the Indian-based battery manufacturing programme is likely to support the central government’s programmes to have 175 GW (100 GW solar PV) of clean energy installed by 2022 and “switch” to EV’s by 2030.

In 2017 India added just over 9 GW of solar PV to its portfolio, ranking it the third largest installer that year. With an even bigger outlook for 2018, and the U.S. decelerating its PV development following section 201 tariffs, India is like to take the position as the world second largest installer of PV.

With dropping system costs and ever more available and advanced storage systems India has seen a wave of additional installations in many sectors. Off-grid or ancillary grid services are particularly attractive to India, as large-scale grid investments have, so far, deterred grid connection of rural communities. Additionally, in those regions with grid connection, frequent and prolonged power outages can hinder businesses, resulting in serious economic damage for the emerging market. To meet these challenges India installed an impressive 206 mini-grids between 2016 and 2017.

Solar PV coupled with programmes that allow businesses (especially large manufacturing facilities) to directly tap PV assets, without paying expensive grid taxes have helped making PV more attractive in India and secure power supply to such industries.

According to the latest REN21 report the solar sector is also helping to creating jobs. In 2017 the country reported 164,000 jobs, posting a 36% increase over 2016. Bringing battery cell manufacturing to India is likely to increase those number by a significant margin in addition to cutting down foreign exchange losses.