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Kunwer Sachdeva, CEO, Su Kam

25 Apr 2018

Solar sector will see an unprecedented growth due to yearly rise of electricity tariff

Solar has come a long way – from being an unaffordable, marginal to cost-competitive and mainstream source of electricity. Investors are betting big on solar energy as it is a clean, sustainable source of energy and compatible with the goal of emission reduction to prevent climate change. As the Modi government keeps its focus on promoting solar energy, Su Kam, a company that manufacturers solar power products for homes and large-scale businesses, finds itself in the thick of activity. Kunwer Sachdeva, founder and CEO, Su Kam, shares his company’s future business plans in an interview to InfralinePlus. Excerpts:

What is your medium-term growth plan in the solar sector?

Currently, we are focusing on the solar rooftop segment. We already have a range of products that are equipped with advanced technology such as Bluetooth, Wifi, GSM enabled. We are working towards incorporating such features in all our products. Through these smart features, the generation of solar power by each household can be easily monitored on a smartphone by simply downloading an app. Once the products are ready, it will be available in the market at a reasonable price.

We are looking to provide cheaper and consistent power supply to people. For this, we are exploring the ‘rent-a-roof’ concept. We will design, construct and service the solar system on the customer’s rooftop and the electricity generated by the system will be sold to the customer. The advantage of this system is that the customer gets continuous electricity at a much cheaper rate than the one received from the local grid. Moreover, a long term power purchase agreement shields the consumer from escalating electricity tariffs. After, say, about 5 years the solar system belongs to the consumer and the generation of electricity for the next 20 years belongs entirely to him.

What are the forces that you see driving solar growth in the country?

One of the main reasons why the solar sector will see an unprecedented growth in the future is the yearly rise of electricity tariff as opposed to the plummeting price of solar cells. As storage systems are getting more and more advanced, going solar entails a lot of benefits. 1 Kw to 5 Kw Solar system with and without storage in residential settings is going to see a huge boom. Even smaller systems of 100W to 500W will be in demand as there is less space so people can put a single panel and generate electricity with the help of it. The market of a small 100w to 500w system does not exist but it will happen and will change the whole paradigm of the industry.

What do you think the government should do to encourage domestic solar equipment manufacturing capacity?

The government should also provide subsidy by local state electricity board on solar power generation instead on the installation of a solar system. Though subsidies are available, the government needs to make it more easily accessible and encourage people to use it. Another challenge is a threat from cheaper and inferior quality Chinese products. Domestic solar module manufacturers have been losing market share in the country to Chinese equipment makers who sell their products at 8-10% lower prices. We need a robust framework to spur domestic manufacturing in India.

The roof-top solar capacity addition is moving at a slow pace. What is holding it back?

The current rooftop policy is a flawed one. The whole process is very cumbersome for the common man. Although the net-metering policy is in place, lack of adequate financial incentives acts as an impediment. It may take 3-4 months from the date of application to receiving a grant of connectivity even for a residential rooftop solar system. There are further shared approvals and clearances between multiple departments such as the regulatory commission, state nodal agencies, discoms, urban local bodies, etc, which may cause delays. The process of obtaining clearances should be made easy, clear and hassle-free. Another major challenge is the non-availability of skilled and trained manpower. Also, there is no way of finding out whether the consumer who received subsidy has installed a solar system or not. The entire process should be more technologically- driven.

What are your future business growth plans?

Currently, our focus is on manufacturing highly efficient solar products that will enable the return on investment to be reduced to 3 years from 5 years since we are providing solutions that can convert normal inverters to a solar inverter at a very low cost.

At the same time, our Grid tie inverters will not only fulfil the energy requirements of the home where they are installed but they will be able to feed excess power back to the grid hence enabling earnings as well. Solar along with storage will be the next big thing worldwide, so Su-Kam will be a company selling power rather than selling products.

Are you happy with Su Kam’s performance in the solar sector?

Su-Kam has played an instrumental role in helping more and more establishments going solar both in India and aboard especially in the Middle East. We have already solarized thousands of homes in villages in Uttar Pradesh under Lohiya Awas Yojna with our efficient and cheap Off- grid DC Systems, these projects provide electrification of rural areas along with optimal utilization of solar energy, since DC systems consume much less power as compared to normal solar systems. However, I feel we still have a long way to go.

With the Modi government planning to provide 24X7 power supply, do you see a long-term future for your inverter business?

Yes, I foresee a very bright future for the inverter business. This is because power availability is not a problem in India. Rather, it is politics about power that is a problem. The irony is that we have surplus electricity but it has not ended electricity shortages. Generating stations are not working to their full capacity because of political issues.