Hyderabad, 17 June-2014, DC: While both the new state governments are stressing on renewable sources of energy to become energy sufficient, the solar panel industry in the erstwhile state has almost become non-existent.
Even 10 per cent of licenses issued by the AP government (prior to the bifurcation) for manufacture of solar cells and panels haven’t been used. Most of the industries have shut down, unable to compete with China as both cells and solar panels are imported at lower costs from that country, leaving the local industry in the doldrums.
While both the states have committed to solar energy as a key source of energy, this is a major challenge, indicate experts. A non-existent local industry would mean banking squarely on import of inputs for developing solar power, which is not healthy.
Meanwhile dependence on gas is totally out of the question to make any future projections; even dependence on coal is limited. Hydel power too is purely dependent on monsoons and, therefore, the biggest potential source seemingly available is solar power. AP has the additional benefit of wind power potential, especially in the Rayalaseema region.
AP, at present, has 1,400 MW of energy being fed from renewable sources like solar, wind, bio-mass, municipal solid waste, industrial solid waste and bio-gas and geo-thermal energy. Telangana has about 300 MW being fed from renewable sources. Of this, solar energy in AP accounts for roughly 72 MW at present while it is 46 MW in Telangana.
The reason for the slow pick-up of solar power, despite having the most potential out of the range of renewable sources of energy, is the non-availability of indigenously-developed panels and cells which has kept the costs very high.
“The manufacturing sector has remained embroiled in dealing with competition from cheaper, China-made versions. Most manufacturers have closed shop in the last couple of years as the costs were too high to be profitable. Even though versions like solar-pumpsets and other solar technology-based applications have been developed, there have been almost no takers due to the cost factor. Most indigenous industries have died down,” said a manufacturer.
The New and Renewable Energy Development Corporation of AP is, meanwhile, charting out plans for boosting solar power potential to 5,000 MW capacity in each of the new states. Vice-chairman and managing director of NREDCAP, Kamalakar Babu, said that the development plan for each region includes 5,000 MW solar power to be added over the next five years.
“In 2009-10, the per unit cost of solar power was Rs 17 against the current Rs 7. We do have indigenous manufacturers but there is still huge competition. It is a policy issue but the competition has come down now,” Mr Babu added.