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France’s Schneider Electric SE said Wednesday that India will be at the core of its next-generation solar inverter plans, and manufacture for the global market.
“What we do in this field is led for the world from India. So, there are inverters for the home, inverters for the micro-grid, inverters for solar. We are launching our next-generation solar inverters on a very large scale. That will be manufactured in Bengaluru and exported all over the world. It has the best technology that is proposed today in the world,” Jean-Pascal Tricoire, Schneider’s global chairman and chief executive officer, said in an interview.
Tricoire added that the solar inverters boast of a technology that can take the energy produced from silicon in the panel that is currently not usable and convert it to energy that is usable and put it on the grid or micro-grid.
“Some of the programmes are completely developed here. All the programmes for inverters that we do for homes are completely done here. Some others are done in collaboration with 45 other centres in the world. India is at number 3 in Schneider, in terms of the number of people in R&D,” Tricoire said.
Schneider specializes in energy management and automation solutions, spanning hardware, software and services, and its India unit already exports 50% of its produce every year.
Tricoire did not share financial numbers of the India operations but said the company plans to invest €100 million (about Rs750 crore) in the next five years in areas such as renewable energy and smart buildings.
So far, it has invested €800 million in India. Tricoire said the firm has 1,500 engineers at its R&D centre in Bengaluru. Schneider spends close to 5% of its annual revenue on R&D globally.
The proliferating telecom towers in villages and small enterprises and households switching to solar lighting from kerosene lanterns are creating a robust rural market for energy services companies and the equipment makers in India. Many businesses are testing the viability of energy supply from solar-powered mini grids for villages and small enterprises as the unmet demand for power in rural areas is proving to be a growth opportunity.
According to International Energy Agency’s (IEA) World Energy Outlook 2015, India has 237 million people with no access to electricity. In many villages, power supply is intermittent. Industry executives said that 70% of those without access to electricity or with only intermittent power supply are in Uttar Pradesh, Bihar and Jharkhand.
According to Anil Chaudhry, country president and managing director, Schneider Electric India Pvt. Ltd, the Bengaluru R&D centre is also developing safety technology for grids. “That will be used all across the world,” Chaudhry said.
Some of the opportunities Schneider Electric will pursue in India are lighting requirements of the planned smart cities as well as of large emerging industries such as defence equipment production. “We are (also) taking on a lot of oil and gas projects,” he added.
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