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Mr. CM Venugopalan, head of Bosch India Energy business, Bosh India Energy business

25 Apr 2016

Chinese slowdown to make India a manufacturing hub for solar equipment (CM Venugopalan, head of Bosch India Energy business, shares his views with InfralinePlus on investment opportunities in the energy sector in India as well as the company’s plans to tap the renewable energy sector).

How do you see India as an investment destination today keeping in view the developments in the energy sector? How has slowdown of Chinese economy impacted your business plans for India?

India has managed to position itself as an investment destination for renewable energy through the recent policy initiatives, progressive stand and an investor friendly climate, where the investor’s strengths complements Indian requirements. India has put in place an ambitious renewable energy programme – to create capacities for 100 gigawatts (GW) of solar power, 60 GW of wind energy, and 15 GW of other renewable energy in the country by 2022. This trend is only expected to gain momentum. At the recently held Make in India Week, it was announced that the renewable energy sector alone will attract investment to the tune of $1 billion in the next 5 years If we look at India’s solar energy market, we can see that it represents a robust opportunity for foreign investors. The country has the potential to become the world’s leading solar markets as its location near the equator and low solar park construction costs coupled with plunging costs of solar energy in recent times (now only marginally higher than cost of producing conventional energy) are all aligning with India’s ambitions. We are dependent on China for solar panels and cell imports. Hence any change in Chinese Economy affects the overall solar industry. Also, with the slowdown of the Chinese economy, India is seen as a favourable investment destination for manufacturing as well. These are all positive signs for continuing to focus on India.

Please share your offerings and services for the energy sector.

Bosch is committed towards renewable energy, clean energy and energy efficiency. Bosch Energy and Building Solutions (BEBS) offer solutions and services in the fields of energy generation and energy efficiency services. Under Energy Generation Services, we offer engineering and construction of a solar power plant and also undertakes operation and maintenance contracts for solar power plants. Under energy efficiency services, BEBS offers comprehensive solutions to industrial and commercial consumers to manage their energy demand through a comprehensive analysis of present energy consumption patterns and forecast of future consumption patterns. Last year, Bosch won the InterSolar Germany Award 2015 for the ‘Best Solar Project’ in the Industrial and Commercial category. Bosch received this award for the excellence in engineering and execution it brought to the commissioning of the 12 MW solar plant for the Cochin International Airport (CIAL) in August 2015. In 2014, Bosch was also adjudged the winner in the same category for a project that was executed for Maruti Suzuki India Limited (MSIL) at their Manesar plant. A first of its kind in India, the 1 MWp solar project was built on a rain water harvesting area for Maruti Suzuki Limited at their Manesar plant. Bosch has also been empanelled as the highest rated channel partner for the Ministry of New and Renewable Energy (MNRE). Bosch is a Grade I ESCO under Bureau of Energy Efficiency.

Bosch has been working closely in the solar sector in India having commissioned a 12 MW solar project for Cochin International Airport. Why did the company choose the Aviation industry for its offerings?

India has the potential to achieve the government’s ambitious target of 100 GW of solar power generation in the country by 2022 and Bosch is committed to be a part of this success story. By commissioning the 12-MW solar power project for Cochin airport, we wanted to set an example and show the world how solar powered airports can be self-sustainable as far as energy requirement is concerned. Solar powered airports can not only bring significant savings in energy bills over a period of time but also bring down carbon emissions significantly. In fact, surplus power generated can be fed to the local grid to meet the energy needs. CIAL, for example, expects the plant to generate more power than what is required for the airport, and it has entered into a pact with the Kerala State Electricity Board (KSEB), the state-run utility, for feeding power produced from the station to the power grids of the board. The power would be brought back from the board as per the requirements of the airport and any additional power would be sold to KSEB. According to the civil aviation ministry in India, five other airports – Ahmedabad, Chennai, Jaipur, Kolkata and Chandigarh – are also expected to start the process to install solar power capacity to generate at least 23 MW power.

Even Indian railways have plans to use renewable energy to improve efficiency and sustainability. Are you looking to explore this area? Please share your future plans and segments which you are targeting for setting up solar power.

Ever since railways has announced its intention to set up solar power plants, we have been eagerly awaiting their tender announcements. With large roof areas on stations, platforms and also land parcels with railways, it is well suited for installing solar power. Having the largest network in the World, this initiative can act as a medium in taking solar across the country generating power at the point of consumption. Our goal is to be a part of the Indian solar story and offer well designed and reliably engineered solutions to our customers. Use of renewable energy in large industrial customer segments like airports, seaports and railways are key to its commercial viability and Bosch Limited will continue to pursue this segment intently

India has grand plans to increase 100 GW of solar power generation by 2022. Do you think it is possible?

India has the potential to achieve the government’s ambitious target of 100 GW of solar power generation in the country by 2022. The biggest challenge for enabling this ambitious growth is to find the right sources to fund the growth. The recently formed International Solar Alliance (ISA) is another step in the right direction. The ISA is expected to enable India access latest solar technologies along with private and bilateral finance at much lower transaction cost. It is also expected to rejuvenate research and development within the country. Bosch is very excited at this initiative which will not only lead to the world moving towards cleaner energy, but it will also make solar power available to the masses across the world.

Solar tariffs in India have seen historic low in last few months with price as low as Rs 4.34 per unit quoted by some developers. Bosch has expertise in engineering and construction of solar power plant and also undertakes operation and maintenance contracts for solar power plants. Being an important player in this segment, do you feel that such low costs are sustainable?

The Rs. 4.34/ unit tariff has been quoted with the VGF from the Central Govt. However we are now also seeing tariffs of Rs. 4.69 – Rs. 5.05 under the Karnataka Solar Power Policy allocation of 1200 MW in the state. The current pricing trend indicates that future tariffs are going to be consistently lower than Rs. 5/kWh. The tariffs quoted are not a direct reflection of the system components and the quality of the solar plant but a function of cost of finance, total capital cost and generation of the project, which are in turn dependent upon the competition and risk appetite in the industry. In a way, we can also say this is also a positive reflection upon the confidence the industry has on the Indian solar market.

Do you foresee prices of solar panels and modules to dip in future given the global market scenario?

Solar energy is increasingly becoming both competitive and lucrative as compared to other renewables. A rapidly-industrializing India is taking the helm to adopt photovoltaics to meet its growing energy needs. If the supply demand elasticity remains on similar lines, then we can expect the prices of solar panels and modules to plateau out soon.