So­lar has shown me the right way, says Rahul Gupta, CEO, RaysEx­pert in an interview.

Says Rahul Gupta, CEO, RaysEx­pert, in con­ver­sa­tion with R Srini­vasan.

Power Watch India - - CONTENTS -

Af­ter grad­u­at­ing from

IIT Roor­kee you started RaysEx­perts in 2011. Kindly com­ment on the jour­ney, chal­lenges faced, how they were over­come and learn­ings till date.

It has been more than seven years and the jour­ney feels like it’s just the be­gin­ning. While peo­ple around me were pre­par­ing for IAS or CAT or MS or cam­pus place­ments, I was bust­ing my shoes in the hot bar­ren deserts of Ra­jasthan, knock­ing door-to-door to ar­range land for our first so­lar plant and I don’t re­gret one minute of not giv­ing up to peer pres­sure. I didn’t know what was I meant to do but so­lar has shown me the right way, which makes me even more pas­sion­ate about so­lar. The big­gest fact I learnt and re­flected dur­ing this jour­ney is that hard work beats tal­ent, ev­ery time.

Since the com­pany and NDMC came to­gether and so­larised 32 schools, com­ment on ben­e­fits from ed­u­ca­tional in­sti­tu­tions opt­ing for so­lar.

It’s a great trend if it starts and I am hope­ful that it will. Apart from tax in­cen­tives, sav­ings, etc, the big­gest ben­e­fit when ed­u­ca­tional in­sti­tu­tions adopt so­lar is that we en­sure we are now a part of the so­lar cul­ture - which is our phi­los­o­phy at RaysEx­perts. Imag­ine a kid learn­ing that his school and house run on so­lar. This will au­to­mat­i­cally make him adopt so­lar en­ergy when he grows up. Af­ter years of mis­man­ag­ing our lim­ited re­sources, we will fi­nally be able to take the right de­ci­sions if this trend be­gins.

The com­pany has ex­e­cuted some of In­dia’s largest rooftop so­lar projects till date. Is the rooftop seg­ment mov­ing in the right di­rec­tion and what lies ahead?

The seg­ment is def­i­nitely grow­ing. We will have to grow faster than the in­dus­try if we want to keep re­peat­ing our suc­cess. What lies ahead (apart from the big fund­ing gap) is the ac­count­abil­ity, ac­ces­si­bil­ity, and ease of go­ing so­lar. The government must take steps to im­prove the gov­er­nance around so­lar poli­cies so that trans­par­ent and rapid pro­cesses can be put in place.

The com­pany has com­mis­sioned 200 MW across In­dia with a pres­ence across 15 states of In­dia for so­lar. Your views on the call for dif­fer­ent feed-in-tar­iff (FiT) for dif­fer­ent states with higher in­so­la­tion lev­els and the need for a con­sis­tent pol­icy regime.

Dif­fer­ent states have dif­fer­ent poli­cies and dif­fer­ent meth­ods, which is why dif­fer­ence feed-in-tar­iffs. While agree­ing that the one na­tion, one pol­icy regime will im­pact growth pos­i­tively, it would be great if con­straints from each state are taken into ac­count so that it cre­ates a win-win sit­u­a­tion and a pos­si­ble so­lu­tion.

What does the com­pany do to over­come the short­age of skilled man­power?

In so­lar you need skilled labour and skilled of­fice teams and it is dif­fi­cult to find good peo­ple to work with. On site we try to over­come this is­sue with our deep con­nec­tions and net­works in re­mote ar­eas and also by hir­ing able and ex­pe­ri­enced site man­agers who can break down com­plex work into sim­ple pro­cesses for the non-skilled labour. It’s all about hav­ing the right peo­ple around you. I don’t need 500 ex­pe­ri­enced and skilled peo­ple- just 20 skilled peo­ple can lead 500 less skilled ones.

Your views on so­lar power equip­ment man­u­fac­tur­ers who are con­cerned about GST and how it may ul­ti­mately bur­den con­sumers.

Re­searchers at the Coun­cil on En­ergy, En­vi­ron­ment,

and Wa­ter (CEEW) find that if so­lar com­po­nents is cat­e­gorised based on cur­rently levied tax rates (in­clud­ing ex­emp­tions and sub­si­dies), GST would im­pact so­lar tar­iffs min­i­mally. How­ever, if pref­er­en­tial tax ben­e­fits to re­new­able en­ergy were not ac­counted, then GST could raise util­i­tyscale so­lar tar­iffs by as much as 9.5%, ham­per­ing progress. Our fin­gers are crossed on fur­ther ac­tiv­i­ties.

So­lar has picked pace but distribution com­pa­nies (dis­coms) are re­luc­tant to pur­chase so­lar in light of low power de­mand and cheap power avail­abil­ity on ex­changes. MNRE is mulling a $400 mil­lion fund to pro­tect clean en­ergy pro­duc­ers from pay­ment de­lays by dis­coms. Will this suf­fice or sug­gest what the govt should do to re­store con­fi­dence among de­vel­op­ers and in­vestors.

Though this is the right di­rec­tion to act in, this is clearly not enough. Strict poli­cies and in­tro­duc­tion of penal­ties can help in en­sur­ing that RPOs buy power. The math is sim­ple, 100 GW will re­quire a $100 bil­lion in­vest­ment in so­lar. This fig­ure some­what in­cludes the cost of adopt­ing so­lar per per­son or per GW. This cost is a re­sult of the over­lap be­tween new­ness of the con­cept, in the ex­po­sure of the cus­tomer and the financial vi­a­bil­ity gap.

While most of the $100 bil­lion is go­ing to be fi­nanced by banks/ in­vestors, the government will still need to in­vest at least $30 bil­lion to achieve the tar­get. While the to­tal govt fund­ing till date as in­cen­tives to adopt so­lar has not crossed $6 bil­lion (20% of $30 bil­lion while In­dia aims to achieve 40% of our tar­get by next year).

Your views on how the re­new­able en­ergy push will ad­versely af­fect ther­mal power plants.

There is a rea­son why re­new­able en­ergy is called ‘Al­ter­na­tive En­ergy’ and not ‘Com­pli­men­tary En­ergy’. All the ther­mal plants that ex­ist in In­dia have a cer­tain life, post which they will be ren­dered use­less. Un­til that time they will keep pro­duc­ing power with­out any ef­fect from re­new­ables. The government is not go­ing to re­duce ther­mal ca­pac­ity to in­crease so­lar. It will only set up so­lar much faster than it will set up ther­mal (in case so­lar re­ally, re­ally picks up).

Your views on large-scale de­ploy­ment of Elec­tric Ve­hi­cles (EVs) in In­dia and the re­sult­ing ben­e­fits in a sce­nario of in­suf­fi­cient charg­ing points.

I am a fan of elec­tri­cal cars and await the day we see even one charg­ing point. This year’s bud­get (just like last year’s bud­get) didn’t make any an­nounce­ments wrt elec­tric ve­hi­cles or charg­ing sta­tions. Though they are plan­ning/ talk­ing to set up a car fac­tory with Tesla, chances of this hap­pen­ing any­time soon is very low. If what you are ask­ing hap­pens, so­lar will be a big win­ner (in the event of in­suf­fi­cient charg­ing points or oth­er­wise).

So­lar track­ers in­crease en­ergy out­put by up to 25 per cent while re­duc­ing lev­elised cost of elec­tric­ity (LCOE) and Op­er­a­tions and Main­te­nance (O&M) risk. Apart from the cost, what are the other de­ter­rents to their adop­tion? What in­cen­tives would lend im­pe­tus to this seg­ment?


- Higher cost of main­te­nance

- Lower sta­bil­ity

- Need for more skilled labour In­cen­tives:

Open­ing up in­cen­tives for the in­dus­try so that they can of­fer cost-ef­fec­tive tech­nol­ogy and struc­tural sta­bil­ity.

Kindly give de­tails of how do­mes­tic man­u­fac­tur­ing (in view of the Make in In­dia pro­gramme) can save In­dia over $42 bn by 2030.

$42 bil­lion seems like a fancy and glo­ri­ous num­ber but we have to remember that China took 10 years to come out of the shabby and cheap qual­ity per­cep­tion of ‘Made in China’ prod­ucts (Due to poor im­ple­men­ta­tion in the first 10 years of Made in China pol­icy). The key is sim­ple - fo­cus on qual­ity and ev­ery­thing else will fol­low.

USA is a mar­ket leader in bat­tery stor­age im­ple­men­ta­tion. Your views on in­no­va­tions for en­ergy stor­age as op­posed to the ‘use or lose it’ thought. Where is In­dia in this re­gard?

It is said that the world’s first tril­lion­aire will be a bat­tery busi­ness owner. In­dia is far be­hind the USA or other de­vel­oped na­tions when it comes to stor­age ca­pa­bil­i­ties. We should re­ally work in this di­rec­tion.

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