The Solar Thermal Federation of India (STFI) and the Indo-German Chamber of Commerce (IGCC) have teamed up for the international Solar Payback project, which aims to increase the use of solar thermal energy in industrial processes. The photo shows the partners during the Kick-Off Meeting in Mumbai, India, on 16 December 2016. Supported by the German Federal Environment Ministry funded by the International Climate Initiative, the three-year project will be implemented in India, South Africa, Mexico and Brazil. It is coordinated by the German Solar Association BSW-Solar and eleven partner organisations: three German companies, plus each target country’s national solar industry association and German chamber of commerce.
The Indian government should provide the same assertive publicity for solar thermal technology as it had for solar PV because the population still needed to be made aware of the benefits of solar water heating. This was the major concern raised during the panel discussion Policy and Regulatory Framework for Solar Water Heater Market Development in India moderated by Jaideep Malaviya (third from right), Secretary General of the Solar Thermal Federation of India (STFI). Five industry representatives took part in the event held during the Renewable Energy India Exhibition and Conference 2016 near New Delhi at the beginning of September (from left to right): Rigal Patel (Redsun Solar), Bhoovarahan Thirumalai (Aspiration Energy), Devinder Kaushal (Inter Solar Systems), Saurabh Bhandari (Solarmaxx) and Chandrakant Shah (Kosol Hiramrut Energies).
In India, there are multiple indirect taxes levied on most transactions. These taxes are divided into those collected by the federal government and the ones collected by state authorities. At the beginning of August, the Indian parliament passed the Goods and Services Tax (GST) Bill, which aims for a radical overhaul of the country’s tax system by merging federal, state and local taxes and turn India into a “single-tax” country. The GST is expected to improve the way business is conducted, make foreign investment more attractive and increase the gross domestic product by between 1.5 and 2 %. But the renewable energy industry may take a hit, according to statements from members of the Solar Thermal Federation of India (STFI). All tax incentives will end under the new GST regime, which is to be implemented by 1 April 2017.
The SoPro India project has scientifically monitored two solar water heating systems for a year with the aim of presenting reliable data on system performance (see the attached PDFs). The measured 20 % solar efficiency would put the ROI between 2 and 3 years, depending on the development of fossil fuel costs. The researchers from German institute Fraunhofer ISE see new systems offering “good opportunities for further technical improvement.” SoPro was implemented by the German Agency for International Cooperation (GIZ) in cooperation with the Indian Ministry of New and Renewable Energy (MNRE).
The Union Budget in India for 2016-17 – announced by the Finance Minister on 29 February 2016 – includes good and bad news for the solar thermal industry. On a positive note: The government has again increased the coal tax from Indian Rupee (INR) 200 to 400 per ton, after already doubling it in Finance Bill 2014-2015. The additional tax revenues will be used to support renewable energy technologies. The overall financial support for renewable energies will increase to INR 50.6 billion (EUR 725 million) during financial year 2016-17. Additionally, the customs duty on solar-tempered glass and solar glass was raised to 5 % besides a Special Additional Duty of 4 % to strengthen domestic manufacturing. On the downside, there is the increase of basic customs duty from 7.5 to 10 % under Harmonised System (HS) code 84191920.
India is one of the largest global importers of vacuum tubes used in solar thermal collectors – also because there has not yet been a business manufacturing them locally. Market volume amounted to an estimated 4 million vacuum tubes in 2014, which are currently imported under four different Harmonized System (HS) codes, with each of them referring to another type of application. Because of a lack of certified standards for vacuum tube collectors, some dealers are taking undue advantage of the situation and fall prey to sub-standard quality at cheaper prices. As a result, India has virtually become a “dumping ground” while the number of complaints has been on the rise.
The Indian solar water heater market is undergoing a transition, from capital subsidies to a slowly intensifying market on a self-sustaining basis. The industry had to face a severe drop in volume in financial year 2014-15, with 0.88 million m² of newly installed collector area after the national capital subsidy scheme was halted in July 2014, which was almost 40 % less than in the boom year of 2012-13 with 1.43 million m². To discuss alternative ways of fostering the deployment of solar heating technology, the Solar Thermal Federation of India (STFI) joined forces with the Ministry of New and Renewable Energy (MNRE) to organise a workshop entitled Roadmap for Solar Water Heater Business in India in New Delhi at the end of July. During the workshop, industry representatives proposed several support measure alternatives to capital subsidies – a promising one are solar obligations represented in case studies such as the successful one in Bengaluru, Karnataka state.
“Channel partners are free to sell on their own without subsidy from Government of India,” the office memorandum by the Indian Ministry of New and Renewable Energy stated on 12 August 2014. This is an important victory for India’s solar water heater manufacturers, which pre-financed around INR 3 billion (about EUR 37 million) in subsidised systems over the last years without being compensated by the MNRE. The manufacturers or their dealers had to sell the solar collector systems as net-of subsidy and claim reimbursement by the government later. Through a strong and solidly united campaign, the Solar Thermal Federation of India made the ministry aware of the extremely difficult business situation over the last one-and-a-half years and called “for the immediate settlement of the pending claims in order to save the industry from bankruptcy”. MNRE’s Secretary, Upendra Tripathy, reviewed the situation and concluded that instead of liabilities mounting, the present subsidy scheme better had to be halted. The subsidy on off-grid PV up to 1 kWp had already been put on hold in April 2014.
Two milestones were reached in the second quarter of 2014 within the initiative Market Development and Promotion of Solar Concentrator Based Process Heat Applications. On 16 April, the Ministry of New and Renewable Energy (MNRE) invited stakeholders to the stone-laying ceremony of a testing centre for concentrating solar thermal technology at the University of Pune (see photo). And on 19 May, Tarun Kapoor, Joint Secretary for Solar at the MNRE, launched www.cshindia.in, a website explaining the basics of concentrating solar thermal technologies and featuring videos of prominent installations for every possible application, i.e., for cooking, process heat and cooling.
A bit more than two years ago, Rajasthan Renewable Energy Corporation Limited (RRECL), the state agency of Rajasthan, a state in western India, launched a massive publicity campaign in order to increase awareness of solar energy systems. The Publications Relations Office of the RRECL has recently stated that a budget of about INR 10 million (around 125,000 EUR) had been made available during 2012 and 2013 for the intensive media campaign. The budget is even said to increase for the fiscal year 2014/2015. According to an RRECL official, the solar collector business has grown by nearly 50% over the last 2 years due to the various publicity efforts. The picture shows an advertisement for solar water heaters in local language on the back of intra-city bus tickets sold by the Rajasthan State Road Transport Corporation.