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India could become one of the largest solar markets in the world in the next three years, but potential problems with financing, transmission and land acquisition could trip up the government's solar plan, according to consulting and research firm Bridge to India.
In November, Prime Minister Narendra Modi set a target of 100 GW of solar generation capacity by 2022, a nearly 33-fold increase from the current capacity. This would include 60 GW of utility scale projects and 40 GW of rooftop and other small grid-connected projects.
"But the biggest challenge will be the enforcement of RPOs (renewable purchase obligation) and the poor bankability of India's distribution companies," Bridge to India said in its "India Solar Handbook, 2015", which is set for releases at Intersolar Munich on June 9.
The report, however, said the measures introduced by the government, including improving availability of debt financing and net metering policies, may not be sufficient to achieve the 40-GW rooftop solar target.
"Rooftop solar has been relatively lackluster in India, with no clear policy thrust so far and only about 350 MW of rooftop solar being installed (less than 10% of total solar capacity)," it said.
On the challenges the sector might face, the solar market intelligence firm said debt appetite for rooftop solar projects, including availability and cost, is expected to be a key hurdle. It might also take a long time for lenders to consider rooftop solar projects for non-recourse finance, Bridge to India said, adding that quality concerns for solar installations and lack of robust legal enforceability of contracts in the build-own-operate model were some of the other challenges facing the sector.
"If the government wants to reach 40 GW of rooftop installations, it will need to provide a greater push. This can be in the form of either more incentives from the central or state governments or it can also be obligations at the state level," Bridge to India director and founder Tobias Engelmeier said, adding that there is need for skill development and creating mass awareness about rooftop solar.
At the state level, efficient implementation of net-metering and co-operation of power distribution companies will be key, he said.
According to the report, India is likely to break into the top five global solar markets this year by adding 2.7 GW capacity. The country was ranked 10th in 2014.
Globally, about 55 GW of solar capacity is expected to be added in 2015, with Asian countries likely to continue dominating the market. China, Japan and India are expected to be among the top five countries, the report said. "While China overtakes Germany in terms of overall capacity, India is likely to overtake Germany in terms of new capacity additions in the year," the report projected.
Bridge to India said India is likely to add 4 GW of new rooftop solar capacity and 15GW of utility-scale solar capacity under the National Solar Mission by 2019.
According to the report, the fundamental hurdle to the government's solar target is financial health of distribution companies which are not able to afford power despite a deficit in states.
The report identifies India's inability to quickly upgrade its grid and grid management processes in line with the new targets as a key technical hurdle for achieving the targets. Land acquisition will be a key reason for project delays at the implementation stage, it said, adding that such delays are expected to impact timelines of both capacity addition and project allocation.
To achieve a capacity addition of 60 GW for utility-scale projects by 2022, there would be a requirement of around $40 billion of debt, it said.
"The government currently expects a large share of this to come from international sources. But international debt appetite for solar projects in India is very limited and Bridge to India is of the opinion that bulk of this amount will need to come from domestic lenders," it said.
According to Bridge to India, India is expected to add 24 GW of utility-scale solar PV capacity between 2015 and 2019. Of this, 7.6 GW is expected to come from central government schemes, 11 GW from state government schemes and the remaining 5.5 GW from other projects.
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