Is SoftBank’s $100 billion investment in Indian solar realistic?

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Japan’s SoftBank Group has reportedly said it is going to invest US$60 billion-$100 billion in solar PV power generation in India, according to Japanese public broadcaster NHK. The company will likely make the investment through a fund backed by Saudi Arabia’s government.

Commenting on the development, IHS Markit’s research and analysis manager, Josefin Berg told pv magazine that SoftBank is pursuing its vision to become a leader in renewables, mobility and information technology. Massive framework agreements with governments is one way for it to display its ambitions and attract investors.

“The question is how realistic the announced sizes of these agreements will be. Would this India deal be signed, then that would imply that Softbank funds the total of India’s 100 GW solar target. The next question is what the Indian government would grant Softbank that would not be available to other investors in India. The only thing that is clear for now is that Softbank is actively working to become a major player in India’s solar growth story,” Josefin added.

Bridge to India’s managing director, Vinay Rustagi feels that the Indian government is unlikely to move away from its current chosen path for the sector. Speaking to pv magazine about the SoftBank investment, he said, “It is difficult to make sense of this announcement without knowing full details like time period, project structure, etc. Looking at the current market status and future needs — 8-10 GW of likely annual solar capacity addition allocated through open international bidding — the statement appears unrealistic.”

Interestingly, while speaking to pv magazine last month, K.N. Subramaniam, Member of General Council, Indian Solar Manufacturers’ Association (ISMA) said, “Such weighty backers (like SoftBank) are likely to head to India with large-scale investments covering the entire value chain from Ingots and wafers to cells and modules, but they badly needed private capital to flow and for banks to show their eagerness to support.”

Last month, SoftBank had secured 200 MW of solar capacity at an auction in the state of Karnataka, reported the Economic Times. In April, meanwhile, it partnered with China’s GCL System Integration Technology for 4 GW of solar manufacturing in India’s Andhra Pradesh. The project is expected to cost around US$930 million and will involve production of solar PV ingots, wafers, cells, modules and batteries in India.