“Anchor by Panasonic” is a global leader in the solar industry. Could you please tell us about your current business presence in India?
Panasonic is predominantly a high efficiency solar module manufacturer. We started this business in 1975 wide erstwhile Sanyo Electric Co. We have around 40 years of experience in this industry right from R&D to vertically integrated manufacturing. In fact we were the first company to start solar cell manufacturing in the world. We have so far sold close to about 5 gigawatts of high efficiency solar modules.
The current business presence that we have in “Anchor by Panasonic” which is a 100% subsidiary of Panasonic is that we sell our solar modules and also we are an end to end EPC and O&M solution provider. So we do a project right from feasibility studies, engineering, procurement, construction, operate and maintain it for over a period of time. As far as business presence is concerned, we are very recent to this country. We started off our business about a year and a half back. Today we are fast growing. We have done close to 100 crores of business and we expect to move forward in the coming years. It is also encouraging that the market is opening up a lot.
Tell us more about the latest innovations in your product and solution offerings for the Indian market.
Traditionally if you look at the solar industry, the modules or the technology that had been used is the low efficiency poly-crystalline technology. But solar technology needs different parameters to be considered. One is of course on the efficiency, also on the resistance to difficult environment of reforms that have come, for example, accelerated depreciation, the customs duty exemption, excise duty concessions and tax rebates that are being given for the solar companies. So these are encouraging policies and the government is right now probably pushing the renewable purchase obligation mandating solar power to be purchased and also making sure that the health of the distribution companies are streamlined. This will create more and more opportunities in the rooftop captive markets, net metering markets and also on the open access purchase of solar power. Solar power will slowly become more of a commodity making it easier for the companies to purchase and also generate. So I think the coming times are going to be very exciting.
Would you be focusing on international/ export market. If so, how different is Indian PV module market from the International market?
Yes, we being a global player are already focusing on the International market particularly from the “Anchor by Panasonic” office in India. We focus on India, South Asia, Middle East, and African market where Panasonic is already a well established brand. We call it as the ISAMEA region. We are already working on this region and get-ting some projects there.
As far as the modules are concerned, I would say the International market is pre-dominantly driven by IEC standards. There are certain specific standards like Japan is driven by JIS/JET standards, Europe and USA are driven by ULand DIN standards. But in India we still don’t have a proper standardization mechanism on quality of solar modules. It is still an open market. But recently, the MNRE is coming out with quality standards under BIS to define the quality of equipment that needs to be used. Second difference is the capacity. Today almost 80% of the capacity of global manufacturing is dominated by China. India is still not a large scale manufacturer. The Cost of Production is still high for India. But in a recent announcement, large corporate started putting up large cell and module manufacturing units; I think India is also poised to become in the next 2 years a cost competitive manufacturing base for solar PV.
With a growing competition from Indian as well as global companies, is there sufficient demand in India to match the supply?
Frankly speaking, today there is an over-supply because of a couple of reasons. One is the Chinese over capacity that is built in and secondly, though we have a huge demand that’s projected but there are pol-icy problems, implementation problems, land acquisition is not easy. So the demand converting into actual project implementation takes a little more time in India because we have certain demographical issues that need to be sorted out. Right now there is an over-supply that is why there is a drop in the price of these modules. But I think over a period of time, the demand should pick up supply once the policy hurdles are being solved and implementation speed increases
Please could you shed some light on your plans for India over the next 12 months?
There are 2 types of plans that we have. We are focusing on our modules particularly the HIT modules. We are now moving towards deploying more retail and distribution channels which we have recently done with the newspapers and we have got really good response. On the EPC side also, Panasonic is very keen to look at the rooftop segment for our high efficiency modules. Apart from that, we are also manufacturing and supplying the poly crystal-line technology. We are looking forward to getting into the utility market to be a dominant EPC company as well. In the next 6 months, we will have to wait and see how the GST impacts and what kind of market reactions will be seen. But I don’t think that will reduce the capital additions in the market. So the next 6 months is going to be paving way for future growth for solar.