In an interaction with Power Insight, – Pravar Joshi, Executive Director, Insolergy Technologies Pvt. Ltd. – shared his views on Indian Solar EPC industry looking into growth, technological advancements and key market trends. Excerpts. .
How attractive is EPC market in the present scenario of rising competition, falling tariffs coupled with GST levies?
Solar EPC market is right now going through a phase of the intense competition. There have been many new entrants at both ends – small residential projects and large industrial projects. However, we see a big opportunity for companies providing the complete package as per customer requirement. This includes proper design and engineering, installation, after-sales-support and finance. A lot of customers find finance as a major impediment in adopting Solar Power. At Insolergy we have a tie-up with IDBI to finance Solar Projects on a Pan-India basis. Furthermore, for specific projects, we also provide Solar System on Built Own Operate Transfer (BOOT) model which in a Solar industry is commonly referred to as PPA (Power Purchase Agreement).
Could you throw some light on key concerns & challenges faced by the Solar EPC industry?
The major concern of any project developer or EPC player is usually from regulatory and policy aspects. For example, net metering policy in Maharashtra is more than 2 years old now. The implementation on the ground, however, is still not smooth and does pose its challenges. It can lead to delay in commissioning of the system which in turn means unhappy customers. Similar challenges remain in ‘Open Access’ segment where a customer can purchase power from a Solar Plant outside its own premises.
Another challenge for an EPC is due to fluctuation in material prices, especially of PV modules which constitutes the major part of the project cost. We have also seen some cases of substandard work which mostly happens in case of low bids either due to competitive pressure or lack of experience and understanding of setting up a Solar Project. These cases tend to harm the industry as a whole in the long run.
What strategies do you follow to overcome challenges related to land acquisition for a timely completion of the project?
Insolergy is primarily focused on EPC of Solar Project. We work with partner companies who specialize in taking care of land acquisition along with regulatory approvals.
Brief us on key consideration kept in mind while selecting your material sourcing partners to guarantee a quality project for a life of 25 years? Could you share with us names of some of your reliable material sourcing partners?
At Insolergy we choose our partners very carefully. One of the most important factors is to assess how well each supplier understands its product. Our field is very technical. It requires strong expertise and knowledge of minute aspects. This is very critical even from a safety point of view. Another key thing we look at is timely delivery and after sales support both for troubleshooting and warranty claims etc.
What is your say on entry new players (IPP/ Developers) with limited experience in solar space? How important is selection of a reliable EPC partner for a project? What key point a developer should consider while selecting an EPC company?
Anyone wanting to work in Solar sector needs to understand that it is a technical field. Due respect needs to be given to all technical aspects. Think long term while designing your system is what I would recommend. As a developer, I will be more comfortable with a team with a strong technical background. Project execution capabilities are also very important, although a good design makes the job much easier. As I mentioned earlier, Solar is a technical field and requires multi-disciplinary skills. It is very important to choose the right company as often mistakes are easy to make but rather difficult to identify and correct. This means a loss in the output/revenue for the plant owner and in some cases even catastrophic damages.
What opportunities do you see in the solar EPC market over the coming years?
Solar adoption is growing at a rapid pace. Going ahead there are two areas where I see a lot of demand – (i) O&M (Operation & Maintenance) and (ii) Analytics
The first one is obvious. O&M of a Solar plant is an important activity to generate returns in the long term. The second long similar lines but is more value adding. Life of a Solar system is long. Things change with time -for example, customer load patterns may change, usage may be modified, tariff regime may be updated or even weather patterns may tweak slightly. There is a need to study the plant and understand how it can kept to its optimum with the current set of parameters at play. This exercise requires strong technical knowhow of the Solar system and ability to make sense of data at hand. There are also new technologies which are expected to come – Energy Storage being the most commonly talked of them. We feel value adding technologies like Drone will also become more and more commonplace in the future. At Insolergy, we offer Analytics as a service to existing plant owners. We can also make sense of the data collected by a Drone in line with specific customer requirements.
How has been your journey so far in EPC space? What is your USP? Also, share with us your current portfolio of Solar EPC business? (Completed projects/ projects pipeline / landmark project)… What are your future plans?
Insolergy is the company with a very customer centric culture. We believe that customization is the only way to succeed. That is one of the main reasons we have successfully executed projects across all sectors – residential to commercial. As I touched upon earlier, our take is that customers are looking for the complete package which includes financing support. Insolergy can offer this to our customers in form of Bank Loan or PPA. Our key customers include Tata Realty & Infrastructure (TRIL), MSRDC (Bandra – Worli Sealink), Minara Masjid etc. To know more about one of our recently commissioned projects at Nanded Mall, please visit – http://www.insolergy.com/blog/commercial-solar/insolergy-solar-mall-nanded-maharashtra/
Regarding where we are headed, Insolergy wants to bring Solar to customers who face impediment with respect to the upfront capital financing of Solar Projects. We are also looking to offer value added services with innovative solutions to new and existing customers which will help them minimise their power bills.