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Renewable energy ministry opposes anti-dumping duties on imported solar modules

According to reports, with the verdict on the anti-dumping duty on international solar modules round the corner, the ministry of new and renewable energy (MNRE) and several state governments are siding with solar power project developers to say that the ministry of commerce should not impose an anti-dumping duty on international panels.

Over the last few months, a battle has been raging between Indian solar panel makers and power project developers on the imposition of anti-dumping duties on imported panels. Indian manufacturers say they are losing business as project developers are buying international panels at lower costs, while project developers argue that Indian panel makers don’t have sufficient manufacturing capacity and that the quality of panels are not good.

“We are concerned about the various solar projects that have been tendered by the different states and under the central solar mission. About 4000 MW of projects have been tendered. After long, solar prices have come down but bringing in anti-dumping duties will increase solar prices again and affect projects,” Tarun Kapoor, joint secretary, MNRE, Government of India, told TOI.

“That said, we are also concerned about developing the local industry and are encouraging the manufacturers by bringing in domestic content requirement for some solar projects,” Kapoor said.

Several states, including Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh, have also opposed anti-dumping duties and the MNRE has written to the Ministry of Commerce explaining its stand against anti-dumping duties.

The MNRE has said that it is “opposed to the imposition of anti-dumping duty on imports of solar cells” and has said if the duties are imposed, prices of equipment will go up and affect the achievement of grid parity (when solar power prices would be the same as power from conventional sources).

Since most project developers use imported panels, Indian solar panel manufacturers have filed a petition for imposing anti-dumping duties on imports from China, Taipei, Malaysia and the US.

Under the Central Government’s national solar mission, a certain set of projects totaling 375 MW come under the ‘Domestic Content Requirement’ (DCR) scheme where power producers are required to use locally made panels, apart from other options like rooftop systems and projects under state solar policies. However, Indian panel manufacturers say this wouldn’t suffice and that they are losing out on business -to the tune of Rs 1000 crore – due to dumping from international companies.

But solar project developers say there is not sufficient manufacturing capacity to make panels in India, and even the ones in the market are not of good quality. Companies also claim that even with this 375 MW, Indian manufacturers are cartelizing and increasing prices of panels, and imposing an anti-dumping duty would further give them the opportunity to increase prices which would result in solar projects becoming unviable.

“Indigenous manufacturers don’t possess the scale to meet the supply requirement of the IPPs. Further wafers and cells are imported and then assembled and marketed to IPPs like us. This drives up the cost and threatens India’s energy security. This policy can result in an assured increase in costs making solar tariffs unaffordable. The technology used by indigenous manufacturers is not the most optimum or latest,” said Vineet Mittal, Vice Chairman, Welspun Renewables Energy.

“The best way to protect local industry is to benchmark their performance and quality of product and if it is found to be up to par, then the Indian government could give cheaper loans to them and other incentives,” he said.

Indian manufacturers, however, deny these claims and say their panels do qualify quality norms and that they have sufficient capacity to supply for projects.

“Studies have shown that there is dumping to the extent of 80% and it is difficult to work in such an environment. We have sufficient capacity and should the anti-dumping duty be denied, the MNRE could convert the existing open category projects to the DCR scheme and give us extension of about six months and we can supply panels for all projects,” said H R Gupta, MD of Indosolar, a solar module manufacturer.

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