India solar heads cheerful with cross-political support – CEO survey

Most company chiefs in India’s solar space are optimistic about its future growth, according to this year’s ‘India RE CEO Survey’ from consultancy firm Bridge to India.

CEO’s expect 58GW of solar additions over the next five years, split between 47GW of utility-scale solar, 8GW of rooftop PV, and 3GW of floating solar (wind 21GW).

While opinions on large-scale solar additions were evenly spread, the industry has been conservative in its outlook for rooftop PV, with a clear majority (78%) expecting less than 10GW deployment over the five-year period, despite Bridge to India forecasting 18GW of rooftop.

The survey involved 41 Indian and international, EPC, O&M, developer and manufacturing companies, with around half the respondents from India itself. Despite policy reversals and various other operational challenges, 34% of the respondents were very optimistic, 39% were optimistic, and just 7% were not optimistic about the future.

The main challenges listed by leaders, in order of importance, included:

  • offtake risk
  • land acquisition
  • uncertainty in policy environment
  • Discom demand for renewable energy
  • network connectivity
  • debt and equity financing

The long-held view of many in the sector that bids have been irrationally or fairly aggressive has not changed in the last year with more than 90% still believing this to be the case.

Gujarat, Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka were the top three states in terms of ease of doing business, whereas Tamil Nadu, Uttar Pradesh and Haryana were the hardest states to do business in.

Vinay Rustagi, managing director of Bridge to India, said: “Overall, the survey paints an optimistic picture for renewable energy sector growth. If effective measures for Discom reform and network connectivity are put in place, we can expect much higher capacity additions in the coming years. We also believe that the sector enjoys broad cross-political support and there is unlikely to be retreat irrespective of who forms the government.”

With India in election mode, CEOs also expect any new government to improve business execution and provide policy stability.

PV manufacturing outlooks of those questioned were downbeat after the safeguard duty, manufacturing-linked tenders and the KUSUM and CPSU scheme had failed so far to reignite the domestic sector.

There was a very wide variety of responses on grid-scale energy storage deployment, with 48% of CEO’s believing that it would be below 1GW, and just 23% expecting deployment to go beyond 2GW.

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