Sunday, August 26, 2012

A solar energy revolution in the making

India is set to replicate its information technology (IT) sector success in solar energy. With every known business entity exploring its own agenda in the solar energy sector, the country is already at the starting point of an energy revolution.

All prominent Indian companies have either set up their wholly-owned solar energy subsidiaries or have gone in for joint ventures or have set up solar energy divisions within their existing operations. The predominant business model being pursued by them currently is of grid-tied project development.

However, as more avenues open up for captive and REC-driven solar power projects, business entities are seeing more value in getting ready for the next wave. (RECs are renewable energy certificates that have become tradable commodities on India’s different power exchanges.)

The private business sector is gearing up for solar energy even though there is an almost policy paralysis with the central government, while different state governments have slowed down or postponed their policy initiatives. Most companies have set up small teams, seeking to explore opportunities in off-grid, micro-grid and roof-top applications to serve the larger private consumer market.

These opportunities are small in terms of ticket-size, but these are enabling all new entrants to test technologies, processes and their people. Gaining experience through pilot projects seems to be the underlying thought.

And, it is not only in the PV space that this below-the-surface activity happening. Companies are finding solar thermal, particularly heat and steam applications, too to be exciting opportunities. Roof-top solar water heaters, one of the oldest availably solar solutions, are now increasingly becoming a USP for residential property developers to offer to their prospective customers. The property developers on their part are forming joint ventures with technologists to gain a share in a market that will surely see exponential growth in the years to come.

Among the predominant and already-known entrants are the Reliance business groups, Lanco Infratech, Moser-Baer, Tatas and BHEL. But, other corporate houses like that of automobile major Mahindra, finance major Welspun, finance major Kotak and the Birla group too have taken long bets on the solar energy sector.

International majors like First Solar, juwi, abakus Solar, Bosch Solar, DelSolar, EMMVEE and SCHOTT are also among those who have taken long bets on the Indian market. Some of such players, who are largely equipment manufacturers or suppliers in the other markets, are keen to even become project developers in a country whose over 30 per cent population is still without any grid-supplied power.

Dedicated and recently-promoted solar companies include Azure Power, Waaree, GreenBrilliance, Vikram Solar and Indosolar. A listing of other scores of newly established regional players would make one feel that the market is already over-crowded – all waiting for the solar energy wave to come in.

The above phenomenon largely reminds one of the early part of 1990s when almost all business entities in India stepped into the information technology (IT) , or more specifically software services, arena. The dotcom boom of the late 90s and parallel offshoring of various service jobs placed Indian’s IT sector among the world majors.

The current euphoria, however, is not without its own sets of challenges and risks. Lesser-than-expected business is visible in the number of marketing and sales CVs that have started getting shared through emails. These CVs are not only of those professionals who are wishing to enter the solar sector, but also of professionals who claim to have a minimum of couple of years of experience in India’s solar project development space.

Nevertheless, as awareness rises, as conventional power becomes costlier and as power shortage increases, the demand for solar power will rise. And, this day is certainly not far off.

Friday, February 24, 2012

Solar Project Enquiries On The Rise

It was a worthwhile effort. Heavy industry users are keen to adopt solar power generation and solar thermal (solar water heating and solar steam generation) solutions more than ever before. They now want to see demo projects.

Such interest was received from prospective clients at the end of a 2-hour exclusive seminar that I conducted for them to explain the merits of solar technologies and how these had become cheaper compared to diesel, furnace oil or any other similar fossil fuels.

The other major focus on my presentation was that the energy crisis in India is only going get worse with acute problems affecting coal and gas-based private sector power projects coming up in the country.

I look forward to connecting prospective clients with solution providers in the industry that will boom big time in near foreseeable future.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Knocking on the doors of a US$ 14 bn solar business opportunity

REECODE Energy Solutions, a Mumbai-based boutique solar energy consulting firm, has launched a year-long programme to create awareness amongst end-users and industrial users about solar power becoming cheaper than some fossil fuels like diesel and furnace oil in India. This segment of users offers a US$ 14 bn solar business opportunity.

The first of the programme was part of a seminar on green and sustainable architecture with the Indian Institute of Architecture in the city of Nasik in western India.

The second exclusive seminar focussing on cashflow projections comparing cost of diesel and solar energy solutions will be held for the members of Tarapur Industrial Manufacturers' Association and Tarapur Management Association in the industrial township of Tarapur, Boisar in the Thane district of Maharashtra state.

REECODE Energy Solutions seeks to enable large consumers of power, particularly in regions where power shortage compels them to use fossil fuels for power generation and boiler applications, to explore solar energy solutions to bring down their costs and increase productivity at their units.

The firm's CEO Bhupesh Trivedi said that India has over 100,000 industrial users with diesel (or other fuel) gensets having rated capacities of over 100 kva. Now that solar energy solutions have become cheaper, this diesel-offset market creates an opportunity of US$ 14bn for solar solution providers.

End-users continue to largely believe that the capital costs relating to solar solutions are prohibitively expensive. Through the awareness programme and cashflow projections, Bhupesh expects give a greater fillip to the entire solar market.