- The talk of China restricting its solar PV equipment manufacturers from supplying to India hung heavily at the REI 2023
- There is also a talk of potential restrictions being expanded to other PV machines
- While this can be a challenge for the Indian manufacturers in the near term, it can be an opportunity for this segment to be established in India
- Manufacturers demand the Indian government to launch a PLI scheme, exclusively for wafer manufacturing in the country
India has put its focus on building its own PV manufacturing sector as the government understood that an industrial strategy is key for a sector that will be the main pillar of its future energy sourcing. But there is an uncertainty lurking in the shadows for this nascent production segment. It relates to the timely availability of ingot & wafer manufacturing equipment from the world’s leading solar PV producer China, which has more or less a monopoly on both ingot/wafer supply and machines to manufacture these products.
Speaking today at a JMK Research and Analytics session at the Renewable Energy India Expo 2023 (REI 2023), the MD of Premier Energies Limited Chiranjeev Saluja referred to unconfirmed reports of Chinese solar wafer equipment makers being refrained from supplying to India.
Earlier this year, China had sought domestic industry views on restricting solar wafer technology export (see China To Curb Export Of Solar PV Technology Equipment?).
As other markets strive to create their own solar module manufacturing industry along the value chain while putting trade barriers for China-made products like cells or modules in place, this harms the Chinese PV manufacturing industry, and this at a time when the country suffers from a severe real estate crisis and high youth unemployment rates.
TaiyangNews went around the tradeshow to assess the market sentiment and if such a ban did come about, where do the Indian manufacturers stand.
Indian manufacturers planning vertical integration to wafers are aware of the matter but since there is no official word as yet, they say they are not worried as of now. Since some of them have already placed their orders, they are hopeful that their equipment will arrive much earlier than an actual decision, if at all, comes about.
A representative of a module and EVA films manufacturer from Rajkot, Gujarat believes more than the Indian buyers, it is the Chinese wafer equipment suppliers that would be worried about such a move from the Chinese government considering India is the next big market for them after the US and Europe. His contention is that some Chinese suppliers are already exploring setting up shop in India in joint ventures (JV) with local companies.
While Chinese management was generally absent at the show mostly due to visa issues, the few equipment makers from China exhibiting at the REI 2023, mostly represented by Indian staff, were usually quick to dismiss the talk saying they aren’t aware of any such ruling from China. When pressed, they did unanimously state that ‘we will take care of everything’. Representatives of one wafer production equipment maker, for example, said they have an American company that can handle orders.
There is also talk about potential restrictions for other machines needed for cell and module manufacturing. However, Indian representatives of another Chinese company said that they have heard that others have received a letter, but they have not, and they would happily take new orders.
Nonetheless, if not Chinese wafer equipment, then some deep-pocketed Indian manufacturers said they plan to source their lines from elsewhere in the US, Europe and Japan even if that would come at a price and may take longer too, as such tools are not readily available. Such a ban, however, may end up putting the manufacturing plans for smaller manufacturers in a tailspin.
Panelists at the JMK session were of the opinion that the government must encourage wafer manufacturing within India to end the dependency on outside markets once and for all. It will also divert polysilicon being produced by a few manufacturers outside China, to India.
The panelists also demanded the government to launch a production linked incentive (PLI) scheme for wafer manufacturing in India.
Vikram Solar CEO Ivan Saha added that for wafer manufacturing to be successful in India, the government needs to create an ecosystem. Financial support is a necessary measure, but it should also expand to other forms of state support in terms of electricity and water use considering the energy guzzling process it is.