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Tipping point for Kerala’s power sector

According to reports, Kerala’s power sector has reached a tipping point where cheaper alternative power generation methods like solar photovoltaic (PV) energy are gaining traction among consumers amid acute power shortage, hike in electricity tariff, and their growing awareness on renewable energy sources.

Three major companies have entered Kerala market in last six months, aiming to cash in on the state’s growing demand for solar energy, and scores of local electric-inverter manufacturers have come up with additional services in solar power. Kerala State Electronics Development Corporation (Keltron) is also foraying into the solar power market with solar inverters.

“Power shortage and the policy of the state government to depend more on renewable sources triggered the boom,” observes M Jayaraju, director of Thiruvananthapuram-based Agency for Non-conventional Energy and Rural Technology (Anert).

Subsidizing solar-power generation is the route the state government has taken to promote this energy form. Anert has received more than 5,000 applications from individuals willing to be solar-converts. “Our target is to convert 10,000 houses into solar-powered ones, and we have shortlisted 25 vendors to supply products to these customers,” said Jayaraju.

According to Sijo Joseph, chief executive officer of Bangalore-based Ronds Solar, media reports on the power crisis faced by the state could be the major reason for the increase in the sales of solar-powered products. “Our business relies mainly on the word-of-mouth publicity after the launch of solar inverters in Kerala August 2012,” he said. Ronds Solar currently ships two to three solar inverters daily from its Thiruvananthapuram office.

Varghese Mathew, chief executive officer of Solar Plus, has teamed up with two Mumbai-based partners to launch his office in Kochi in November. “While power shortage is the main reason for the growth of this industry in Kerala, the drop in solar PV panel prices has also contributed to the boost in sales,” said Mathew. His company is in the process of opening branches in Thrissur, Kottayam, Kozhikode, Kollam, Thiruvananthapuram and Kannur in one and a half months’ time. According to Mathew, educational institutions are also welcoming the ‘green idea’. “We are installing solar inverters in three engineering colleges in the state,” he said.

Further, eyeing the sales potential of alternative power sources in the local as well as national markets, Dubai-based PTL Solar has started its operations in Aluva. PTL now plans to set up 50 Solar Marts, outlets for affordable solar products, in the state this year. “We will open 3-4 outlets in every district,” said Prabissh Thomas, founder and group MD of PTL.

In addition, Idukki and Kottayam districts have at the least 15 companies selling solar inverters to local clientele. With more than 80 lakh households in Kerala without any solar-powered products, it is a huge market the ‘sunrise industry’ could tap into.

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