Infrastructure

US solar firm plans $300 mn investment in India

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Bill Gates’ Breakthrough Energy Ventures-backed 1366 Technologies plans to invest $300 million to set up a 2-gigawatt (GW) solar wafer and cell manufacturing facility in India under the government’s production-linked incentive (PLI) scheme, said chief executive and founder Frank van Mierlo.

The US-based firm is in talks for an Indian partner, who will handle the module manufacturing part of the production chain and use the equipment to set up solar parks in India.

In a telephone interview, van Mierlo declined to name the Indian firms he is in talks with, citing non-disclosure agreements.

Apart from Breakthrough Energy Ventures as its largest investor, 1366 Technologies also has North Bridge Venture Partners and Polaris Partners as investors. A total investment of $200 million has been made in the firm through a mix of equity and non-dilutive resources.

“Capital markets are very friendly to technology plays,” van Mierlo said. “In two years’ time, the only solar modules to be sold in India have to be domestically manufactured and everyone understands that. Module making will be the most profitable part of this supply chain and a lot of people are interested because of this underlying market dynamic.”

At present, India has a domestic manufacturing capa-city of only 3GW for solar cells and 15GW for solar modules.

“Our technology that has been perfected over the last 10 years can help in 50% cost savings,” added Abhijeet Birewar, 1366 Technologies’ India representative.

The 4,500 crore PLI scheme is part of domestic content requirement strategy and is expected to help India add 10GW of integrated solar photo voltaic (PV) manufacturing capacity by bringing direct investment of around 17,200 crore. State-run Indian Renewable Energy Development Agency Ltd has invited bids for setting up solar manufacturing units under the PLI scheme.

“The commitment to clean up the power supply is clear. It is clear that the government has decided that India will have a role in the global energy transition, and it has developed an extremely thoughtful approach to support and develop domestic solar manufacturing,” said van Mierlo.

The domestic manufacturing plan for solar equipment has gained traction with 15 companies considering total investments of around $3 billion to build solar equipment manufacturing facilities here as reported by Mint earlier.

“Given the combination of factors such as domestic content requirement, ALMM (approved list of modules and manufacturers), custom duty and PLI makes India a pretty good bet for clean energy transition anywhere in the world,” van Mierlo said.

While Chinese solar module makers have raised prices by over a fifth since December, India has decided to impose 40% basic customs duty on solar modules and 25% on solar cells from 1 April 2022. “I don’t know of a single industry that is concentrated in a single country. This is not an ideal situation,” van Mierlo added.

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