Investor appetite for Indian solar needs ‘rebuilding’

The Indian solar market’s difficult 2018 saw investor confidence ”hammered” by mounting execution challenges, policy uncertainty, and a poorly designed tendering spree, according to the latest quarterly report from consultancy firm Bridge to India.

The ‘India Solar Compass Q4 2018’ reported that at the end of 2018, the country’s installed solar capacity stood at 28,057MW, spread across 24,202MW of utility-scale and 3,855MW of rooftop solar. The PV pipeline stood at 17,658MW.

Meanwhile, Just 1,446MW of capacity was added in Q4 2018, of which 990MW was in utility-scale solar and 456MW in rooftop solar.

Vinay Rustagi, managing director at Bridge to India, said: “2018 was an extremely testing year for the solar market. Pretty much everything that could go wrong, did go wrong. Issues such as safeguard duty and GST created uncertainty for the entire industry, costs went up, execution challenges mounted and to make matter worse, the DISCOMs cancelled many tenders because of unrealistic tariff expectations. 2019 is expected to be better but the new government will have to work hard to re-build investor appetite. Rooftop solar remains a bright spot but even this market has seen some serious policy reversals in the last few months.”

Utility-scale solar capacity addition has been “sluggish” since Q2 2018 and Q4 2018’s figures were down by 46% over the same quarter in 2017. However, the rooftop solar market continues to grow strongly and is up 47% over the previous year. Andhra Pradesh and Gujarat led the way in large-scale capacity additions in Q8 2018.

The top three states for total large-scale commissioned capacity continue to be:

Karnataka – 5,328MW
Telangana – 3,501MW
Rajasthan – 3,081MW

The top three developers in 2018 for commissioned capacity were Indian firms:

Adani – 740MW
Acme – 720MW
Essel Infra – 460MW 

Chinese firms GCL, Risen Energy and JA Solar were the leading module suppliers with Sungrow, ABB and Huawei the leading inverter suppliers. Meanwhile, Indian firms Sterling & Wilson and Mahindra Susten led the EPC market.

Module prices have fallen to US$0.20/W, down 44% year-on-year, however, Bridge to India noted that this reduction was mostly offset by the 25% safeguard duty and 5% GST as well as more than 10% Rupee depreciation. Moreover, prices are expected to harden in 2019 by 5-10%. 

The huge and unprecedented number of new tenders at more than 51GW in 2018, with 15GW just in Q4, was thwarted by a similarly huge number of tender cancellations with just under 17GW of tendered capacity withdrawn and another 9,238MW of tenders undersubscribed in the course of the year.

In its ‘India RE 2019 Outlook report’ released in January, Bridge to India forecast the South Asian country’s renewable energy deployment to grow by 50% year-on-year in 2019 with a total of 15,860MW of installations