India to tighten solar equipment imports to prevent dumping, says minister

India has pledged to clampdown on imports of solar equipment that majorly come from China, even as the two countries remain locked in a military standoff at their Himalayan borders.

“We are putting up barriers… One of the reasons is dumping that has happened from some countries at very low prices. We are going to put in place customs duty. We are also going to have an approved list of providers and manufacturers,” R.K. Singh, Minister for New and Renewable Energy told a conference titled “India PV Edge 2020” on Tuesday.

India is likely to soon impose a 20% basic customs duty on imports of solar modules, which would come over and above a 15% safeguard duty.  

The government has been planning to force government-backed solar projects to source components from a pre-authorised registry of providers, which was initially expected to be introduced from the start of the current financial year on April 1.

But the pandemic outbreak had delayed certain projects even as power demand fell, forcing the government to postpone the plan. The majority of India’s solar equipment imports come from China and the pandemic disrupted these supplies.

Power demand in the country, which had slumped by 34% year on year in April in wake of the covid outbreak, rebounded to the same year ago level in August. The demand in September exceeded last year’s level during the same month, Singh said.

He said the tighter import measures that are being planned should not only cumulatively help to ensure that there is no dumping in India, but ensure that domestic manufacturing becomes self-sufficient.

New scheme

The government plans to soon roll out a Product Linked Incentive Scheme to promote greater manufacturing of solar equipment locally to meet the additional demand. These will include an interest subvention scheme that will be aimed  at equipment exports from the country.

Singh said that the incentives provided will be higher for futuristic and advanced technology, adding that India is on track to achieve a renewable energy target of 175 GW by 2022, of which 100 GW will be from solar.

He highlighted that India’s share of power generation capacity of renewables has reached 38.5% against a target of 40% by 2030 that the government had pledged at the COP 21 summit. Renewable energy will have a 60% share of the capacity by 2030, he said.

“Our vision is very clear. We want to electrify our economy and we want to green our electricity,” he said.

Many of the traditional plants are getting retired. We will be retiring 29 such plants,” he said, adding that they will be replaced with renewable energy generation.

Indu Shekhar Chaturvedi, secretary at the Ministry for New and Renewable Energy, said that the government recognised that the current manufacturing capacity was limited.

Amitabh Kumar Sinha, joint secretary at the Ministry of new and Renewable Energy said that India will be needing at least 30 GW of cells, wafers and modules to meet domestic requirements.

“We are in discussions with manufacturers who can come to India. More capacity is expected to come to India,” he added.

Biman Mukherji is a columnist and consulting editor at Indoasiancommodities.com. He has worked for international news organisations such as Reuters, The Wall Street Journal as well as for newspapers like The Times of India. He can be reached at biman.mukherji@indoasiancommodities.in

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