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No barrier to India business, says US solar firm

According to reports, in the background of the US government taking India to the World Trade Organisation over India’s ‘local content requirements’ for solar power plants set up under Government of India programmes, US company First Solar has said it is not too bothered by such local content requirements.

(The government has mandated local content requirements for projects set up under the Jawaharlal Nehru National Solar Mission.)

First Solar, which makes thin-film technology based solar cells and modules, and has about 20 per cent of the Indian market, told analysts a few days ago that it did not see the local content requirements as “a significant barrier to our goals for the marketplace.”

Noting that there is hardly any production coming out of local producers, First Solar said that it saw “as much opportunity outside of the state-sponsored (Government of India-sponsored) programmes as much as we do inside those programmes.” “There is very little production currently going on,” James Hughes, CEO, COO and Director, First Solar, told an analyst, answering a question about thin-film module production in India.

“So we don’t spend a lot of out time and effort fretting about the local content requirements, although we do actively engage the government and make our view known,” Hughes said.

First Solar says local content requirements would “only drive up cost for local markets and ultimately don’t benefit the economy.”

First Solar’s statement seems to be consistent with the stand taken by the Ministry of New and Renewable Energy that the requirements apply to a very small part of the country’s solar ambition — 20,000 MW of grid-connected and 2,000 MW of off-grid plants by 2020.

A large part of the vision comes from the programmes of the various States, none of which has prescribed local content requirements.

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