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Solar developers go into a huddle to beat anti-dumping scare

According to reports, solar power developers in the country have united to devise a strategy to counter any anti-dumping duty on solar cells and panels imported from China and the US. (Anti-dumping investigations were notified by the Ministry of Commerce on November 28.)

With only 40 days to submit a reply, 12 solar power developers participated in a conference call on Friday to discuss means to thwart any anti-dumping duty.

Developers decided to activate the dormant Solar Independent Power Producers’ Association, for effective lobbying. They will also hire a consultant to generate data to back the Association’s case, and a law firm to argue the case.

India today has 1,045 MW of grid-connected solar power capacity, created mostly in the last two years. Most of the panels and almost entirely all the cells are those that have been imported.

Indian solar module manufacturers such as (the erstwhile) Tata BP Solar and Indo Solar, had little or business.

Most developers went in for thin-film technology-based modules for a number of reasons — availability of cheap overseas funding, perception that ‘thin film’ is better suited for hot climates and a policy lacuna under the National Solar Mission, where crystalline silicon modules needed to be locally bought, whereas ‘thin-film’ could be imported.

Even the local content requirement for crystalline silicon did not help much because most components were imported and very little value addition happened in India.

Developers want to import as global prices are low. A solar module is available at $0.65 a watt, compared with $2 a watt in 2009, thanks to aggressive capacity build-up by the Chinese. At least 26 companies in the West have gone bankrupt since August 2011. The US recently slapped an anti-dumping duty on imports from specified Chinese companies.

Since the Chinese companies themselves are in a bad shape, there is a suspicion of them selling below cost.

The anti-dumping investigations come against this backdrop.

Developers want to capitalise on this exceptional opportunity to buy cheap from abroad. Manufacturers want to be protected until an eco system develops in India so that economic value addition happens within India’s shores.

Manufacturers speak of job creation, but developers point out that solar manufacture does not produce many jobs. A recent study of SEMI, a global association of the nano, electronics and semi-conductor industries, said that while 33 jobs are created per MW of solar capacity, only 8 of them are in manufacturing. All the others are in downstream activities such as installation and maintenance.

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