Calling on domestic manufacturers to ramp up production of solar cells and modules, Prime Minister Narendra Modi Friday made a pitch for self-sufficiency in the sector—at a time the government implements measures to reduce its dependency on China for power equipment imports. Modi reiterated that government departments and institutions will only procure solar equipment from domestic manufacturers.
“It has been decided that any government department and government institutions, procuring solar cells or solar modules only purchase such equipment made in India,” Modi said, exhorting the industry, MSMEs and start-ups to capitalize on the opportunity while inaugurating the REWA Solar Power Project in Madhya Pradesh.
Over the last few years, the government has tried to push through the use of domestically-manufactured solar photovoltaic cells and modules through multiple schemes. “Now it is the country’s goal that we end our reliance on imports for solar panels and solar energy equipment,” he said.
The 750-MW solar power project in Rewa was set up by Rewa Ultra Mega Solar Ltd, a joint venture between Madhya Pradesh UrjaVikas Nigam Ltd and Solar Energy Corp. of India. The project has received financial assistance of Rs 138 crore from the Centre.
The government’s drive to reduce dependence on China comes in the wake of the tensions at the Line of Actual Control. Within a fortnight of the clash, which took place last month, Minister of Power and New and Renewable Energy RK Singh had announced plans to implement basic customs duties of around 15-25 per cent on solar equipment starting August. This duty would subsequently go up to as much as 40 per cent, he had said during a virtual press briefing on June 25.
China was the top exporter of solar cells and modules to India between 2019-2020, accounting for around 77.5 per cent of the total imports ($1.68 billion) of the equipment.
Last week, the government had announced a total ban on power equipment imports from China on cybersecurity concerns.
“We will not be able to fully utilise the strength of solar power until we develop the capacity to manufacture high-quality solar panels, batteries and storage in the country. We have to work in this area with speed and we will do it,” the PM said. The cost of solar power per unit was around Rs 7-8 per unit in 2014 had come down to Rs 2.25-2.5 per unit and this would benefit all industries and create jobs, according to him.
India had a total grid-interactive solar power capacity of 35 GW at the end of June 2020, according to the Ministry of New and Renewable Energy.
Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan Friday described the Rewa plant as a “game-changer”. He said it had would probvide electricity at just Rs 2.97 per unit, and to commercial establishments outside the state for the first time. The CM said about 10,000 MWs of solar power will be generated in MP through upcoming projects.
-With inputs from ENS Bhopal
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