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Solar players upbeat over EU action against China

According to reports, Indian solar cell and module manufacturers are enthused by two developments in the last few days.

First, the European Union’s action of imposing anti-dumping duty on solar panels imported from China has raised expectations that the Indian government will follow suit. (India has initiated anti-dumping investigations against companies in China, the US, Taiwan and Malaysia.)

Second, the Minister for New and Renewable Energy, Dr Farooq Abdullah, said on Wednesday that of the 750 MW to be tendered for bidding in Phase II of the National Solar Mission, 75 per cent would come under ‘Domestic Content Requirement’— which means these solar plants will have to use locally produced modules.

“It was a pleasant surprise,” said H.R. Gupta, MD, Indo Solar, a company that manufactures solar modules. Only a few days earlier, Gupta was lamenting about the sorry state of solar equipment manufacturers and how unfettered imports would ring the industry’s death knell.

The Minister’s statement about the 75 per cent DCR is yet to find mention in any policy document but the industry is enthused by the Minister’s statement

The Indian Solar Manufacturers Association had been demanding 100 per cent DCR in Phase II of the Solar Mission, but is now saying 75 per cent is not too bad.

“Some life will be brought back into the Indian industry,” said Narender Surana, MD, Surana Ventures Ltd, both a manufacturer of modules and developer of solar projects.

Against this backdrop, developments in far away Europe have also brought cheer to the Indian industry. Last week, the EU imposed duties of 11.8 per cent on all Chinese solar panel imports for two months. From August 6, the duties go up to 47.6 per cent.

The European Trade Commissioner, Karel De Gucht, said that in his estimate “the fair sale price of a Chinese solar panel would actually be 88 per cent higher than the current price for which they are sold on the European market.”

Surana feels that the EU action will result in European developers buying from India. “I am getting at least one enquiry each day,” he said.

From the other side of the fence, Pashupathy Gopalan, Managing Director, SunEdison, a US-headquartered solar power company, says that mandated local purchase will raise the prices of solar power, “but if the government feels that that is the price to be paid for developing a solar manufacturing industry, so be it.”

However, the government should be consistent in its approach, Gopalan feels. For instance, if the local content requirement is fixed at a level for a large capacity, then the industry will figure out how to deal with it. Gopalan also feels that solar power producers to buy locally produced modules, but the module manufacturers should be allowed to import cells.

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