In an exclusive interview with ETEnergyWorld, Anurag Garg, Vice President of Solar and Energy Storage Business at the company says that there could be a slowdown in the solar sector, due to the delays in auctions, bidding process and Power Purchase Agreements (PPAs).
Global energy management and automation giant Schneider Electric considers high energy demand and policy focus on clean energy as two major growth drivers for India renewable energy sector. In an exclusive interview with ETEnergyWorld, Anurag Garg, Vice President of Solar and Energy Storage Business at the company says there could be a slowdown in the solar sector, thanks to the delays in auctions, bidding process and PPAs. Edited excerpts.
By Ankush Kumar
What are the highlights of Schneider’s solar and storage business in India and globally?
I am responsible for the Solar Business of Schneider Electric in India and for me, this is an exciting time because there is a lot of focus on green energy and climate change. The most important trend in the energy sector today is digitization, decarbonization, and decentralization which are giving us the opportunity to innovate for the future. Schneider Electric offers integrated energy solutions. In India, we are largely present in energy distribution, supporting the distribution of the electrification and smart city projects. We largely contribute to the utility-scale solar projects including commercial rooftops, mini-grids, microgrids and storage projects.
What according to you is driving the growth of the solar business in India?
In India, huge energy demand is one of the key drivers. The second is that there is a lot of focus on clean energy. The wind energy sector has taken a back seat in the last few years, with the emergence of solar. The tariffs are quite competitive and it is directly being put on the grid. Last year, renewables accounted for a large part of the capacity addition and within the renewable energy sector, solar was dominant in terms of contribution to the capacity addition.
What kind of solutions Schneider provides in the energy space?
From the solar perspective, we provide solutions starting from the solar modules to the connection point at the grid for IPPs. We are present in the chain between the output of solar panels up to the connections to the grid. That is one of the solutions we provide through our digitized platform EcoStruxure. It’s a cloud-connected platform where the consumer gets all the data of the plant on the cloud. We also have our own solar inverters for the large-scale, utility-scale plants and for rooftop projects. We also have hybrid inverters which are used in the off-grid systems or where storage is needed for evening hours. These are small-sized systems used in the micro-grids for the hybrid applications.
So, a large part of our business is around megawatt scale ground-mounted projects. Here, we largely work with the Individual Power Producer (IPPs) like Renew Power and Hero Future Energies. Then, we have the Engineering, Procurement, and Construction (EPC) companies and even developers buying our products. Also, there is the commercial rooftop business where we work with the system integrators or partners who are actually putting these systems on the roof of the industries, commercial offices, buildings.
What have been the main trends in the demand for solar modules in inverters over the past few years?
Last year, India had a big jump in solar installations as it did around 7-8 Gw and that is the reason total capacity stood at 20 Gw of solar at the end of 2017. Recently, there have been a lot of announcements of close to 10-12 Gw but the auctions are not happening at a rapid pace. We have seen auctions for only around 1 Gw while the announcements have been there for around 10-12 Gw. The government is also likely to announce plans for 20 Gw for the next 3 years. There has been a kind of slowdown in the last 2-3 months.
How would the recent issues related to safeguard and anti-dumping duty impact the solar sector?
Recently, in a few of the tenders, we have seen the participation was really poor and that was the reason that the bids were called off. In Karnataka and Maharashtra, people did not participate because of the lack of clarity on safeguard duty. A solar installation has a gestation period of almost 12-15 months once the Power Purchase Agreement (PPA) is filed. So, if the auction is not happening quickly, the project will get delayed. As the activity of auction announcement, bidding and then PPAs are getting delayed, there could be a slowdown in the solar sector for the next 6-9 months.
What is your view on the competition in the Indian solar market with the presence of developers from China, Malaysia, and other countries?
For us, the competition is not from Malaysian players as they are mostly present in the modules segment and we do not consider that as our competition. So, for us, competition is mostly around solar inverters and electrical equipment like transformers and switchgear. Transformers and switchgears are very traditional products which require local service support and I do not see any Chinese or any non-Indian company participating in the market for these products which are used in solar as well as in any distribution project. A major competition for us is around inverters because these are standard products and are easy to ship. That is the reason why we have competition largely coming from China. But we have competitors from Germany, US, and Spain coming to India.
What is your view on the energy storage market?
Energy storage is the future because if we are going to increase the injection of renewables on the grid, and as the mission is 175 Gw by 2022, energy storage is going to be very crucial. Also, because solar power is transient and you cannot have solar power flowing for the entire day. Solar power is available for only 8-10 hours a day. That is the reason why I think storage is the natural evolution with the renewable.
About Schneider Electric
Schneider Electric is leading the Digital Transformation of Energy Management and Automation in Homes, Buildings, Data Centers, Infrastructure and Industries. With global presence in over 100 countries, Schneider is the undisputable leader in Power Management – Medium Voltage, Low Voltage and Secure Power, and in Automation Systems.We provide integrated efficiency solutions, combining energy, automation and software. In our global Ecosystem, we collaborate with the largest Partner, Integrator and Developer Community on our Open Platform to deliver real-time control and operational efficiency. We believe that great people and partners make Schneider a great company and that our commitment to Innovation, Diversity and Sustainability ensures that Life Is On everywhere, for everyone and at every moment.