Rohit Kumar, Head of Indian Subcontinent, REC (India) Pvt. Ltd.

Thank you Rohit for your time! Owing to the fact that India’s solar market is becoming highly competitive, kindly share with us how REC is managing the demand of high efficiency products at low costs.

By not competing on Price! We are educating, informing and making the end consumers aware of the technological differentiation and unique partnership approach of REC Group. As more Customers opt for Solar for commercial reasons, we become the natural choice for those who are looking at the most trusted solar partner with a proven track record in the Indian conditions and coupled with one of the lowest degradation and warranty claim rates, the customers feel completely convinced because their investments are secured.

Differentiation can happen best at the product level and that’s what we firmly believe in.   Being an innovative product company, helps us maintain technology edge and stay ahead of competition. Superior quality and performance in combination with high reliability and bankability are key for a professional solar industry company. REC Group has a long term approach with focus on building lasting relationships – recent launch of our highly appreciated global Partner Program brings another successful element of our go-to-market strategy to India.

Rooftop solar in India is undoubtedly one of the biggest markets for any solar company in the country. What is your position on rooftop installations in India?

We have been present in the Indian market for over six years now and have supplied more than 250 MW, out of which 50% has been in rooftops. Our experience has been tremendous for the last three years where we have grown with more than 150% CAGR, and this is fuelled by the rooftop sector which has seen a perceptible shift towards quality which is reflected in our numbers every quarter. The C&I segment which has led this growth and is considered to be price sensitive in general has with experience and more installations moved towards quality and higher efficiencies.   The institutional and residential sector is dominated currently by domestic products due to DCR component policy, but that will change due to its phase-out soon.

Although we have yet to see the residential rooftop market in India gain which according to our internal estimates and external forecasts should happen by 2019.

What type of role will solar energy play to meet the regulations for green buildings and achieve LEED certification? Do you see there is an urgency to explore viable solutions to realize net-zero energy or green buildings in order to attain a carbon-neutral future?

Energy consumption is one of the most important factors contributing to the carbon footprint of a building. A switch to renewable energies, even partially, has therefore a huge impact on the overall carbon neutrality. Rapid urbanization has meant that there is constant addition of new buildings creating a never-ending demand for energy consumption. This is especially the case in developing nations, creating a huge opportunity to install mass-scale solar rooftop solutions.

Many countries have already developed and adopted guidelines for minimum requirements for new and existing private and commercial buildings. For example, the European Union requires all new buildings to be nearly net-zero energy by the end of 2020, new public buildings by 2018, as outlined in its Energy Performance of Buildings Directive. In the United States, California targets all new residential constructions to be near net-zero energy buildings by 2020 as outlined in the Statewide Energy Efficiency Strategic Plan. In the Indian State of Rajasthan which is the largest state area wise the new norms mandate that hospitals, hotels, hostels, lodges, community centers and even residential buildings proposed on plots of more than 500 square meters will be required to make provision for solar infrastructure to light up public spaces and corridors.

REC Group offers high performance and low carbon-footprint products enabling companies to power their properties and business while contributing to the collective efforts on mitigating climate change and protecting the environment.

REC Group is continuing to upgrade all its cell lines to PERC and half-cut cells, can you share in detail about the up-gradation process and company’s half-cut cell (HC) product series?

REC Group is the leading fully integrated European brand of solar panels and was the first one who has developed a formula and process to mass production of half-cut multicrystalline solar cells. Our investigations started in 2011 and mass production in 2015. Today, we have more than 1 GW of our half-cut TwinPeak solar panels installed.

This achievement is attributed to improvements made at all steps – from silicon to cell and module production and results in innovative solar panels with world-record power output.

At present we have four product ranges comprising most of our existing lines, these are TwinPeak TwinPeak 2, TwinPeak 2 BLK2, and TwinPeak 2S 72 Series.

The Director General of Safeguards (DGS) has proposed imposing a 70 % safeguards duty. It is been said that this will significantly damage the solar industry. What are your views on this?

To comment upon this will be speculation, since nobody really knows what will be the eventual outcome, there are too many variables here, and you cannot have a clear-cut response to that. Having said that, we are certain that in the long run  solar’s fundamentals will continue to be beneficiary for the end user and whole communities due to its continuously reduced costs.

Please tell our readers about the development and innovation that REC has been working on in the rooftop segment? Also, what are the technological advances that are expected at the module level?

For Rooftops, the most important criteria for innovation is increasing the efficiency and packing highest output per M2.  We at REC have always taken pride in being the Technology leaders. The TwinPeak module features an innovative combination of four technology enablers and is a fantastic example of product innovation. With Multicrystalline half-cut PERC cells, split junction box and five bus bars for higher power output per square meter, increased yields, lower costs and, therefore, shorter amortization. The TwinPeak technology ensures that rooftops have the maximum output even during partial shading conditions. This is a multiple award-winning technology with the latest one being the Solar+ Power award

Being the Industry leader, what is REC’s strategy to differentiate itself in the competitive Indian Solar market?

Simply by doing what we have been doing all this while, providing consistent high quality products with the lowest claims rate that are globally renowned for quality and performance to the discerning Indian customers. And this is our firm believe that there is always a market for such products, and with each passing year it will continue to grow as more people get aware and educated on the importance of reliable high quality, and this is what we want.

As the market matures and business and consumers start considering solar as a necessity rather      than a luxury is driven by subsidies, quality will play a bigger role in the Indian market. Also since the rooftop segment is mostly capex in India, the asset owners as they come along the learning curve will veer towards quality and reliability of their installation along with the efficiency and performance, both of which are met through REC modules.

Finally, your views on the global adoption of solar and its role towards climate change and Electric vehicle acceptance.

Solar is  most viable fuel for our future, the current emphasis on it globally is not misplaced. It is the most flexible in system size and applicable on roofs, ground and even water. Only recently for the first time renewables added more to the power generation in Europe than coal. This is a historic and irreversible shift in how we consume energy. Globally every oil major giants like BP, Shell, Total are acquiring renewable companies, and this is a trend that will continue, at home we are already witnessing a rising spree of M&A activity.

EVs are the next frontier and though globally they are already giving a tough competition, it will  be some time before the acceptance and assimilation in the Indian market. There are massive infrastructural challenges for EVs to succeed in India and they will have to be price- competitive to woo the Indian buyers, all of which will take some considerable time.

(This Interview was originally published in March issue of Climate Samurai)