“The Central government must safeguard Indian PV module manufacturers from Chinese manufacturers, who are dumping their products in the local market”

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Amol Anand, director – sales and marketing, Loom Solar

For the past few years, India’s economy has been growing at a rapid pace and this has led to a larger carbon footprint. Therefore, adopting renewable, green energy sources like solar and wind is the ultimate solution. According to a new report by Bridge to India, the country is set to march aggressively towards its solar target with expected installations of 14GW in 2019. This is because the government has announced a set of new initiatives and policies promoting solar energy adoption in the country. Electronics Bazaar’s Nijhum Rudra spoke to Amol Anand, director – sales and marketing, Loom Solar, about this promising sector.

EB: Solar power has a promising future in India, with the capability to address all the country’s energy requirements, yet the industry is facing lots of obstacles. Can you highlight the challenges Loom Solar has faced.
There is no doubt that solar energy is what will meet India’s energy requirements. Even the government understands that, which is why India has set itself the ambitious target of 100GW solar energy generating capacity by 2022. There are two segments in the industry—utility scale and rooftop. By and large, installations are happening more on the utility side. The rooftop segment in India is far from meeting its target of 40GW by 2022, and is facing major challenges on the ground.

For the rooftop segment, there is no clear policy on the issue of net metering by discoms. There is no standard national policy to issue net meters across states. Getting a net meter in our country takes from 30 to 180 days. States like West Bengal do not provide net meters for rooftop installations below 5kW. Then there is the subsidy scheme – the government of India offers up to a 40 per cent subsidy if you install a solar energy system of up to 10kW. In a country like Australia, you get the subsidy in your customer account within 10 days, but getting the government-promised subsidy in India is not guaranteed. The process can take up to 12 months. There is also a lack of certification to qualify solar installers.

The solar sector is growing fast across the globe. India is the cheapest producer of solar modules, but despite that, for new entrepreneurs, entering the industry is quite difficult. There should be a national standards framework, under which startups are certified to install a solar system.

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Loom Solar is a startup and has to grow. We understand that we will face challenges. But startups often grow by overcoming their challenges. We have made a product called an AC module, which does not require a net meter. For instance, if you install our 3kW AC solar module on your rooftop, the system is designed in a way that, whatever solar energy is produced will be for home power consumption. This power will not be fed to the grid.

At Loom Solar, we understand that to grow in this market, we need to have new entrepreneurs. The company is focused on creating around 5,000 new solar entrepreneurs in the solar sector by 2020. And we plan to do so in each district and block of our country.

EB: Although, the government and the industry tout solar power as a green energy source, manufacturing solar photovoltaic panels involves thousands of tons of environmentally hazardous materials. How is the industry and the government taking steps to monitor and control this situation?

When something is made in a factory, there will always be some hazardous material released – whether it is in the manufacturing of cars, mobiles or solar PV modules. However, solar is considered to be a green source of power. Manufacturers like us are ensuring we get RoHS (Restriction of Hazardous Substances) certification in electrical and electronic equipment.

Loom Solar complies with RoHS standards. Also, the industry is moving towards higher efficiency panels, which will release less hazardous material. Soon, you will witness the launch of 400-watt panels by manufacturers in India.

EB: What are the various steps taken by the government to improve the solar industry? As an industry expert, are there any changes in the current policy or something new that you would like to suggest?
In India, the installed solar module manufacturing capacity is 8GW per year. Of this, only 5GW is operational, of which, only 2GW is actually produced every year by local players. However, India consumes more than 8GW of solar modules in a year. The data indicates that 80 per cent of the modules are imported from China and Taiwan. There is huge cost pressure on Indian manufacturers. The Central government needs to safeguard Indian PV module manufacturers from Chinese manufacturers, who are dumping their products here.

The government should impose a higher anti-dumping duty on PV modules, and imports from neighbouring countries should stop. In order to maintain quality, all the products must be certified by government-recognised bodies.

The government has taken a few major steps to improve the situation; however, these are not sufficient. Getting BIS (Bureau of Indian Standards) certification is too costly—anything up to ₹ 3 million just to get the panel certified. We would like the government to implement two measures. One would be to implement one grid across India so that the availability of power increases. The second step could be to offer subsidies on solar—this should be a direct benefit transfer into consumer bank accounts within stipulated timelines.

EB: What is the growth pace in India’s solar power sector and what are your firm’s 2020 targets like? Which states, do you think, are doing exceptionally well in renewable energy?
India wants to achieve 40GW from rooftop solar installations, of which only 4.2 GW has been installed on the roofs of homes, shops and offices; so imagine the kind of opportunities we have in this space. It is likely that we will contribute to about a monthly addition of 3-5MW a month in the year 2020. Loom Solar’s strong markets are largely in the Hindi speaking belt such as Haryana, Jharkhand, Punjab, Maharashtra, West Bengal, Uttar Pradesh and Jharkhand.

EB: What was the vision on which Loom Solar was founded?
As you know, solar energy is the world’s fourth most attractive market in the world. But we don’t see much solar adoption near our homes and offices, though we do see signs of booming sectors like consumer electronics and banking all around us. There is huge scope in this sector, and I believe that the company that is close to the customer will lead the market. Most of the big solar companies are working on projects and large solar installations, but the residential space has been ignored for many years. At Loom Solar, our aim is that any customer who wants to make their home, shop or office solar powered, first approaches us. We should be their first choice to make their home solar powered. Our vision is simple; we want to be the most popular solar brand by 2020.

EB: What is the business model of your company and what are your marketing strategies to help you stay ahead of the competition?
Loom Solar believes in offering the latest technology products to benefit our customers. That is why we make monocrystalline panels, which work in low light and cloudy weather—these are the most efficient solar panels. The efficiencies go up to 21 per cent.

Currently, a solar installation involves technical products, but we want to make it simple, portable and easy to install. That’s why we have come up with the AC module. Just one of our AC modules can power a light, fan, television, and refrigerator during the day. At present, most other brands do not make the products that we do. We have spent a lot of time reaching out to our customers using digital platforms.

EB: What is your current market share and what are you targeting in the next financial year?
At present, we ship 1MW panels monthly to our residential customers. We are among the top ten consumer brands in the residential space. We aim to achieve a revenue of 1 billion by 2020, apart from also becoming the most popular brand in the solar sector within the same timeframe.

EB: Tell us more about some of your unique products and their functionalities?
Whenever you think of installing a solar system, you need a solar panel and inverter, which involves a complex installation process. To make it simple, we made the solar AC module, which generates alternating current. The Loom Solar AC module is a plug-and-play product—just install it in your home and start using solar power.

EB: Finally, what is your roadmap for the coming years?
In the coming years, our focus will be on reaching 100 million customers and bringing out a product that is durable, highly efficient, and easy to operate.

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