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New Delhi: The government will launch an online repository of all made-in-India solar modules manufactured after domestic content rules (DCR) failed to check Chinese imports.

All indigenously manufactured modules will have a unique identification number with which it would be registered on the platform, secretary for the union ministry of new and renewable energy Bhupinder Singh Bhalla said. 

Beneficiaries of the recently launched PM Surya Ghar scheme would also be able to verify whether the modules used for their rooftop solar installation has been made in India.

“We will launch an online platform for traceability of domestically manufactured modules. All such modules will have unique IDs, which will be populated on the platform and it will help us verify whether a particular module on the ground has been manufactured in India. The prototype has already been developed in a six-month process with the help of the industry, we are likely to launch it in about two months,” Bhalla said.

Under several subsidized schemes of the ministry including CPSU Scheme Phase-II, and PM-KUSUM, it has been mandated to source solar PV cells and modules from domestic manufacturers. Similar norms are also applicable for the ‘PM Surya Ghar’ rooftop solar scheme.

“It will largely work as a repository or a database of India-made modules. This data will help ensure compliance with the domestic content requirements (DCR) wherever it is mandated. Going forward, we can even track when a module was manufactured by which manufacturer, to whom it was sold and how long it has been operational. It will also be useful in the recently launched PM Surya Ghar yojana, wherein the households will be able to check whether the modules installed at their rooftop are locally produced,” the secretary added.

The platform could be used for verification of modules used in grid-scale solar projects also.

The move comes at a time when the government has reimposed the Approved List of Modules & Manufacturers (ALMM) for solar module manufacturers, with effect from 1 April.

The order to mandate the procurement of solar modules from the manufacturers featured in the list was kept in abeyance for FY24 in view of low supplies of modules and its potential impact on solar capacity addition. Goods made by firms on the ALMM list can be sourced for government-supported schemes and projects where electricity discoms procure electricity. Manufacturers and solar modules are approved by the Bureau of Indian Standards (BIS) and the ministry of new and renewable energy.

The move also comes at a time when import of modules continues despite a high import duty of 40%, given shortage and higher prices of domestic modules.

Bhalla said the reimposition of the ALMM would address concerns about risingr imports. The domestic ecosystem also is equipped to cater to the projects, as about 37 GW has already been signed up under the ALMM. 

The focus on domestic manufacturing of solar modules and lower reliance on imports has gained momentum in line with India’s ambitious target of 500 GW installed renewable energy capacity by 2030. 

A diplomatic standoff with China over border issues since 2020 has resulted in an accelerated push for curbing imports and boosting local supply chains. China is the world’s largest exporter of solar modules.

Apart from the imposition of higher basic customs duty and the ALMM to restrict imports, a production linked incentive (PLI) scheme is also underway for local manufacturing of these modules.

Data from ICRA showed that during the April-February period of FY24, India’s cell and module imports stood at 41,920 crore, way above 18,093 crore in FY23. This surge in imports in the recently ended fiscal can be attributed to the relaxation in ALMM norms for a year.

According to Vikram V, vice president, co-group head, corporate ratings, ICRA, the proposed mechanism would help in ensuring compliance to the regulations for domestic content usage.

Noting that the norms are supportive for domestic module makers, he said the lack of backward integration is a concern for the Indian original equipment manufacturers, and this in turn leads to dependence on imports for solar cells, wafer and ingots.

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Published: 04 Apr 2024, 07:20 PM IST

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