Experts call for govt mechanism to check solar rooftop products

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Industry representatives warn of quality issues amid a price war

With a slew of private players rolling out solar rooftop solutions targeting different categories of customers, experts and industry representatives warn of quality issues amid price wars and urge government to come out with standard technical specifications and test compliance for the benefit of industry and consumers.

Though the need of the hour is a solar rooftop solution providing quality performance at lowest possible cost at the consumer-end, lack of compliance and audit mechanism may lead to quality issues later, stated experts.

Over the past several weeks, several companies through tie-up with Chinese or western companies have rolled out solar rooftop products, particularly in the power-starved southern states with aggressive pricing. There are products with a starting price of about one lakh for 1 kw solar PV system. These companies are targeting both domestic consumers and industrial customers with their systems and solutions. However, there is an increased focus on household category with plans of establishing strong network across locations. But it looks like compliance and verification systems for such products are yet to be established.

“There will be quality problems. So far what we are seeing that is every company is uniformly making a decision to go for the low cost systems and definitely beyond a certain cost, there will be a compromise on quality directly. So lower the cost of the system, poorer the quality of the same and you pay for it. Many new companies coming into the market don’t have the experience of solar,” Pashupathy Gopalan, managing director-India and general manager - south Asia and sub-Saharan African operations, Sun Edison told Financial Chronicle.

“Our view is commercial and industrial rooftop market makes lot of sense now when you combine it with government’s 30 per cent capital subsidy for systems less than 100 kwh, which is supposed to be increased to 400 kwh. But, we have found through our economic analysis that government subsidy doesn’t necessarily make it compelling for residential customers to adopt solar rooftop although there will be some early adopters. Some of the richer category of the residential segment might go for rooftop. Moreover, domestic electricity is cost is not very high in India,” he added.

Prasanth Sakhamuri, director - technology & marketing, HHV Solar Technologies said: “I see a near time price war with poor quality products. In solar modules quality is very important to ensure that the true capability of the technology is achieved and the power source is active for 20 years. Most roof top programs seem to have no quality test mechanisms and there is going to be all types of products being offered as we are dealing with a customer base who could hardly distinguish. Some of the larger companies are even importing cheap panels and labeling them in India and offering it as part of a package to disguise the source. Failure will lead to a situation of the technology being branded as unviable. This is not healthy for the technology and a strong audit mechanism and test compliance should be established.

Shubra Mohanka, director, Solid Solar also indicated that rooftop solar will be an investment opportunity for industrial and commercial consumers. “With tremendous support available from government for rooftop solar projects and cost of solar modules at their lowest owing to recession in larger solar markets of Europe, a company can recover 50 – 60 per cent of the project investment within 1st year and the remaining in around 2-3 years time.

Echoing others’ views for residential segment, she pointed out that rooftop solar market in the country is huge and it needs more number of players to grow this market by taking aggressive steps in marketing, customer awareness and price innovation. Some kind of price war is inevitable and also good for the customer. However this price war should not lead to compromise in the product quality because many times customer is not aware of the technical specifications of the product offering. For household market, government and industry should come out with standard technical specifications to enable household customer to compare pricing and choose their supplier wisely.

A KPMG report solar industry stated that adoption trajectory for solar rooftop might be higher in the industrial and commercial segments due to the prevailing tariff levels and persistent deficit.

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