Solar Industry in a Post Pandemic World

COVID-19 is acceleratingly affecting nations across the globe, and bringing daily life and economies to a standstill. The biggest concern of the novel coronavirus outbreak is the uncertainty it holds. Solar, like most other industries is facing its own share of challenges today, and is struggling to meet its target of 100 gigawatt (GW) installed solar energy capacity by 2022 in the wake of lockdown.

Smart Cities India Expo / Solar India and National Solar Energy Federation of India convened a panel of experts to deliberate the Post-COVID 19 Plan for Solar Industry. Attended by more than 150 people from across the , the webinar saw industry pioneers discuss revival plan from government and industry leaders post Covid-19- whether there’s relief from government currently, strategies to revive ‘Make in India,’ and whether we will still depend on Chinese imports, or we should focus on improving domestic solar manufacturing?

Moderator Subrahmanyam Pulipaka, Chief Executive Officer, National Solar Energy Federation of India initiated discussions with the impact of COVID-19 on manufacturing and solar rooftop sector in the 3 C’s context- Capital (Liquidity), Certainty (Policy) & Capacity (Workforce). 

Kushagra Nandan, Co-Founder & President, SunSource Energy discussed the ‘Capital’ element saying, “Capital can be split to two aspects of Equity & Debt. Industry players with access to equity have faster access to debt, hence a quicker turnaround time as well. A lot of players will get stuck on the debt part, so there’s a need to educate financial institutions on the as a safe and sound investment with stable returns.” Expanding on the Capacity factor, he continued, “Migrant labours that led the move back home in the first wave will start coming back soon. However, the other wave of migrant labour that are only starting to reach their hometowns now will start to return to job bases once public transport resumes. Manufacturing can hence resume slowly.”

On deliberations over high-efficiency Solar Cell technologies, and whether India should lead or catch up, Prashant Mathur, Chief Marketing Officer, Solar responded, “A lot of businesses post COVID-19 lockdown era will face challenges. The Renewable Energy industry is fortunately not one of those. Focus on renewables will increase as citizens begin to understand the importance of environmentalism. In terms of manufacturing, we are quite confident that production must stay in India, and in fact we must expand. As the Honourable Prime Minister recently emphasized on self-reliance in India, I believe government will fast-track manufacturing, and a lot of players will expand.”

Ritu Lal, Senior VP and Head, Institutional Relations, Amplus Solar opined, “All businesses across the country will face liquidity issues in the post COVID-19 world. While the Solar Rooftop market did not take off that well, we must remember that India’s industrial growth was not very high even pre-coronavirus days. Since Solar Rooftop players, (unlike grid) are dependent on monthly payments from customers, we are forced to work with people with high credit ratings. If now capital becomes a constraint, the chances of an OPEX model of operating might start picking up, as opposed to CAPEX. In such a scenario, the big question remains whether banks and other financial institutions deem renewable energy to be a safe place to lend?”

Responding to a question from the moderator on the state of Indian Rooftop Sector Post Lockdown panelist  , Director- Sales & Marketing, Ltd, replied, “This lockdown has created a problem in the supply chain. With the first lockdown happening in however, we can look at this as an opportunity to decentralize supply chains. Fortunately, we have with us our shipments with us so we can resume production right after lifting of lockdown. Logistics and transport will be a challenge as we navigate between green, orange and red zones- not knowing where we will be stopped. COVID-19 is a reality that we have to learn to live with, and that’s something we have prepared ourselves as an organisation as well.”