Major Events that Impacted the Solar Sector in 2022
Manufacturing and tax policies affected the industry
December 21, 2022
India installed a record 10 GW of new solar capacity during the first nine months of 2022, an increase of 35% year-over-year, according to Mercom India Research’s Q3 2022 India Solar Market Update report.
India’s cumulative installed solar capacity now stands at 60 GW.
We’ve collated the key stories that significantly impacted the Indian solar sector in 2022.
Solar projects stranded as the Great Indian Bustard issue continues
The Supreme Court ordered Rajasthan and Gujarat to assess the total length of overhead transmission lines in the region, noting that the installation of bird diverters in the habitat of the endangered Great Indian Bustard (GIB), as proposed by the special committee appointed by it, is not yet complete.
Nearly 4.8 GW of solar projects is affected by environmental concerns in the GIB region.
The top court had instructed both states to install diverters in the GIB habitat and underground overhead cables. It was concluded that underground transmission lines with 66 kV or higher voltage levels are not technically possible. However, underground powerlines with voltage levels of 33 kV or lower are feasible.
Gujarat has started shifting overhead transmission lines underground, and Rajasthan was yet to undertake the exercise.
PLI tranche II to boost domestic manufacturing
The Ministry of New & Renewable Energy (MNRE) approved ₹195 billion (~$2.36 billion) to achieve gigawatt-scale manufacturing of high-efficiency solar photovoltaic modules under the second phase (Tranche II) of the Production Linked Incentive (PLI) program.
Out of the total approved amount, ₹120 billion (~$1.45 billion) has been set aside for vertical integration of manufacturing polysilicon, ingots, wafers, solar cells, and solar modules under the second phase (Tranche II) of the Production Linked Incentive (PLI) program.
A sum of ₹45 billion (~$546 million) has been approved for the vertical integration of manufacturing wafers, solar cells, and solar modules, while ₹30 billion (~$364 million) is dedicated towards integrated manufacturing of solar cells and solar modules.
Solar Energy Corporation of India will be the implementing agency for the program.
Green Energy Open Access Rules
In June this year, the Ministry of Power issued the Electricity (Promoting Renewable Energy Through Green Energy Open Access) Rules, 2022. As per the new regulations, consumers will be eligible for green energy open access if they have a contracted demand or sanctioned load of 100 kW or more. For captive consumers, there will be no load limitation.
Grid Controller of India (formerly known as Power System Operation Corporation) will be the nodal agency and will approve all applications for open access within 15 days.
The permitted quantity of banked energy by the consumers is set at least 30% of the total monthly electricity consumption from the distribution licensee.
The cross-subsidy surcharge for the open access consumer will not be increased by more than 50% of the surcharge determined for the year in which open access has been granted for twelve years from the operation of the project.
ALMM mandatory for open access and net metering projects
The widely expected relief for net metering and open access projects failed to materialize after the September 30 deadline was allowed to expire without an extension from the government.
For these projects, developers must mandatorily use domestically manufactured modules from the Approved List of Models and Manufacturers (ALMM) from October 1.
The Ministry also stated that the ALMM would not be applicable for behind-the-meter solar power projects used for captive consumption by a consumer or group of consumers.
Despite the continued cost-effectiveness of open access and net metering projects to customers, the introduction of ALMM could lead to a longer payback period for projects and dent developers’ margins due to uncertainty around the supply and pricing of domestic modules.
BCD imposition changed the industry
The imposition of a 25% basic customs duty (BCD) on solar cells and a 40% on solar modules took effect from April 1, 2022. The decision forms part of the Indian government’s efforts to reduce reliance on imports and boost domestic solar equipment manufacturing.
While domestic manufacturers have welcomed the decision, it has not found favor with solar power project developers, who are skeptical of domestic manufacturers’ ability to meet demand. Chinese suppliers dominate India’s solar energy sector because of their competitive prices.
Domestic cell manufacturing capacity currently stands at around 4.6 GW.
Rooftop subsidy restructuring
MNRE issued new and simplified central financial assistance (CFA) calculations for rooftop solar systems installed by residential consumers.
The subsidy calculation will now be on the capacity of the rooftop solar system instead of the earlier method based on the benchmark cost set every year for these consumers.
Earlier, there was no subsidy for systems above 10 kW.
The central government subsidy is available only to those who register on the national portal by December 31, 2022. It will be released after clearance by the regional power distribution company.
The Ministry extended Phase II of the ‘Grid-Connected Rooftop Solar Program’ until March 31, 2026, without any addition to the originally approved outlay of ₹118.14 billion (~$1.43 billion).
Other major news
MNRE approved the implementation of the Intrastate Transmission System Green Energy Corridor (GEC) Phase-II in Gujarat, Himachal Pradesh, Karnataka, Kerala, Rajasthan, Tamil Nadu, and Uttar Pradesh. The program aims to add 10,753 km transmission lines and 27,546 MVA substation capacity to evacuate 20 GW of renewable power from these states. It will be implemented by state transmission utilities and is scheduled for completion by FY 2025-26, with a total estimated cost of ₹120.31 billion (~$1.45 million).
The Ministry issued an expression of interest from state governments to set up manufacturing zones for power and renewable energy equipment. It will include manufacturing units with a total financial outlay of ₹10 billion (~$121 million). The project’s duration is five years – FY 2021-22 to FY 2025-26. The proposed funding for the three manufacturing zones has been kept flexible to support a common infrastructure and testing facility with a ceiling of ₹4 billion (~$48 million) for one manufacturing zone.
Further, the government amended project import regulations to exclude solar power projects, effectively shutting down a legal route for developers to bypass restrictions on module procurement. The amendment nullifies applications from private solar developers who had sought approval to import components for upcoming projects. The previous regulation allowed imports at a concessional customs duty rate for “all power plants and transmission projects.”
“The solar industry in India experienced the most significant change in direction since the National Solar Policy was established with the imposition of BCD and the shut down of imports. The impact of these policy changes will be transformative as the country starts setting up a domestic supply chain,” said Raj Prabhu, CEO of Mercom Capital Group.