Based in Noida, Jakson Power Solutions is a diversified group with interests in power generation and distribution and solar power, which includes the manufacture of a range of products, and EPC where it provides end-to-end solutions for electrical as well as land-based and rooftop solar power projects. Sundeep Gupta discusses the prospects for the Indian solar sector in an interview with Mrinalini Prasad.
What is your view on India’s ability to raise large resources required to attain 20,000 MW of grid-connected capacity by 2022 under the Jawaharlal Nehru National Solar Mission?
I think India has the ability to raise large amount of resources required to attain the target of 20,000 MW by 2022, but the industry needs support from the Government of India to fast track investment in solar power field. There needs to be policies focusing on technological and financing schemes that will create favourable conditions for industry to invest.
Phase-I of JNNRM recently ended with less than 50 per cent of the target realised. What were the reasons for this?
What you are saying is true for Batch I of phase-I of JNNSM. The two main reasons for the default were
- Inexperience of developers and EPC companies in this new field,
- Non-serious bidders putting in their bids just to bag the project and then sell it in market for a premium.
There was hardly any default in Batch II because many developers and EPC companies were able to learn from their mistakes of Batch I and ensured that they started their project execution on time. The bidding conditions now ensure that only serious bidders bid for IPP projects.
What is your prognosis of phase-II of the national solar mission?
MNRE has released the draft policy for phase-II on its website. It is proposed that tariff has been fixed and all bidders bid for Variable Gap Funding which is nothing but subsidy that would be required by them to be able to supply power at published tariff. The biggest challenge here would be to monitor the progress of the plants so that subsidy is released at the right stage.
Another challenge will be to ensure that no developers shut down their plants after commissioning and after having taken the full subsidy. MNRE would certainly work out a mechanism to overcome these challenges. We are bullish about phase-II and are confident that this would change the solar map of India.
What are the major challenges in developing large-size solar power projects in India?
The major challenges in development of large-size power projects are timely statutory clearances at site like land conversion and clearance from the pollution control board. Project-based financing is also a constraint. There should be concessional rate of interest for solar power projects.
Further, getting ROW for transmission line is a big hurdle and, perhaps, assistance by government on this can be a big positive for promoting solar power.
Lastly, lack of focus on promoting high efficiency solar cells and technology is a major challenge. India should invest in futuristic technologies rather than near obsolete ones.
Are financial institutions still sceptical about funding solar projects?
Till now raising capital for solar projects has been a problem for developers as banks and financial institutions are averse to funding solar projects. Many developers decided to import modules just because of attractive financing options which were part of the deal. Although the financial institutions are still sceptical about funding solar projects, the situation may ease a little in future as many developers have been able to demonstrate timely and successfully commissioning of their projects which will boost the confidence of banks and financial institutions.
High installation cost continues to cloud the future of solar power in India.
Installation costs have come down drastically over last three years. I don’t feel that installation cost will be a hindrance in installation of solar power plants. There is a further scope to reduce the installation cost with adoption of better technology, better engineering and economies of scale.
What about the prices of photovoltaic cells and modules?
I feel the prices of PV cells and modules have bottomed out and there are very clear indications that the prices are on the increase now.
What are your views on R&D in the solar energy sector in India?
R&D is really a weak link in the Indian solar programme. There is enough protection to encourage domestic content but that has diluted focus on quality, performance and technology. While there is rationale behind protecting domestic content, I feel the same should be linked to companies investing in R&D so as to ensure whatever we manufacture is world class and futuristic.
Jakson is committed to making use of the best of technologies available for various areas we have ventured into in the solar space.
Can you tell us about Jakson’s IPP business?
Jakson has an independent business vertical which focuses on bidding for solar IPPs in India and abroad. Our current IPP portfolio consists of 2×10 MW plant at BAP in Rajasthan. This plant was commissioned in February 2013. Our future plans are to scale up the capacity unto 100 MW within three to four years for which we plan to bid aggressively in phase-II of JNNSM as well as in the Middle East.
Jakson also provides EPC and complete solar solutions.
India’s solar mission has created a new market segment of approximately Rs.30,000 crore per annum for solar EPC services and solutions. Jakson is already a leading electrical EPC player in India and hence progression to solar EPC came as a natural extension. To tap this segment we have created an independent vertical for solar EPC and solutions. This vertical is focused on providing complete EPC solutions from concept to commissioning for megawatt-scale land-based projects, rooftop projects and off grid projects. We are also in the process of launching some very innovative products like solar gensets and solar water filtration systems in near future.