Interview: Sunil Badesra

Country Head at Sungrow

We are planning to come in the electric vehicle segment as well

June 28, 2022. By Manu Tayal

We are expecting that the duty on imported inverters should be increased so that the kind of infiltration which is still happening from outside could be stopped. Otherwise, after some time may lack motivation in the kind of investment that we have done and the efforts that we are putting in the Indian market, said Sunil Badesra, Country Head, Sungrow, in conversation with Manu Tayal, Associate Editor, Energetica India. Mr. Badesra also discussed about the company’s investment and expansion plans for India, key challenges faced, government policies, etc.

Que: Sungrow has recently inaugurated its extended 10 GW manufacturing facility in India. Kindly tell Energetica India readers in brief about this facility.

Ans: The earlier setup of 3GW was majorly the assembly. However, in this 10 GW set-up expansion, the highlight is the SMT line that we have set up. It means all the PCBs that are going to be used in inverters will be made locally, as the majority of tenders these days are asking for a class-1 requirement which says that at least 50% local content should be used in the inverter. So, we will be having a local SMT line for all ranges of products. Out of 10 GW, we have 4 GW for string inverters and the remaining 6 GW is for central inverters. These numbers are for a single shift. So, in case we run the factory in two or three shifts, the capacity will be multiplied accordingly.

The other products which we are planning will be in the battery energy storage system (BESS). We have already closed a couple of storage projects in India on a larger scale, 50 MWh+ and going forward we’re expecting that more and more storage projects will be coming into the Indian market. We are hopeful that as soon as these projects actually start execution on the ground, we will be having all the electronics components, which are used in the BESS solution like PCS that we’re going to manufacture locally in India. Infact, we are also exploring the assemble battery cells locally, in case these things work out and can give some advantage to our customers. Definitely, we will do investment in batteries as well. We are also launching a few other products like Robotic cleaning systems with the name Sunpure and maybe in the next couple of years, we will set up a new factory for that if demand remains there and will start supplying all the robotic cleaning systems locally from Indian factory. We are also planning to come in the electric vehicle (EV) segment, so there will be some announcements after 6-7 months.

Que: How do you see the government’s ‘Make in India’ initiative, as a foreign player setting up a manufacturing base in India?

Ans: Indian Government is very clear to support the companies who are making local investments and can comply with the local requirements of the tenders like 50% local content in all the inverters. So, we have a very clear intention and that was the reason why we set up the factory four years ago. Sungrow has catered to a variety of customers from the 10 GW manufacturing plant, including residential, commercial & industrial, utility-scale levels, and global customers. Sungrow India is having long-term development plan, which will help us achieve our renewable energy mission goals. For the success of the 'Make in India' Initiative, Sungrow is willing to continue to lead this market and set the standard for the Indian solar industry. Our commitment to the solar industry is to provide a Global standard and quality product with good quality services.

Que: Currently, what kind of challenges you are facing while working in the Indian market?

Ans: Photovoltaic (PV) inverter manufacturers suffered two major setbacks because of supply chain issues. The first was the cost increase, which posed a significant challenge to the sector. Fortunately, Sungrow is the industry leader in inverters, and we are a pioneer in technical breakthroughs, so our products are competitive. The other factor is equipment shortages, particularly in the areas of integrated circuit chips and IGBT modules, which have had a direct influence on production and deliveries. Because of our large order amounts and long-term relationships, Sungrow has the advantage of being well-supplied by our vendors. In the inverter market in 2021, the company saw tremendous growth.

Que: What are your views on the BIS certification for inverters?

Ans: The BIS regulation has put pressure on international suppliers to comply with Indian Standards and the major reason were uncertainty in implementation and unavailability of testing facilities, somehow these are still there. This also resulted in business loss and capital expenditure to suppliers. However, since we had already started manufacturing in India, so not faced many challenges in it. In my view now, BIS certification extension may not be given any further extension except for the inverters of higher ratings like 200 kW & above and 1500 V inverters.

Que: What are your expectations from the policymakers for ease of doing business in India?

Ans: Currently, we are facing a few challenges related to the investment that we have made in the Indian market and the 10 GW manufacturing facility which we have set up in Bangalore. The major challenge that we’re facing right now is that despite investing, we’re not getting expected support because especially in the rooftop segment there is no other company, except Sungrow, which has Made in India inverters. Other Indian manufacturers are there, who are in the Indian market for more than 10 years and still they’re importing the inverters from other countries. So, we were expecting the government to impose duty and definitely, they have taken one step. Now, we are expecting that this duty should be increased so that the kind of infiltration which is still happening from outside could be stopped. Otherwise, the kind of investment that we have done and the efforts that we are putting in the Indian market, after some time we may lack motivation. This is one of the major things, which we are expecting.

Secondly, people are talking about PLI only for modules. We understand that the modules' contribution in any solar project is about 60 per cent to 65 per cent but the inverter is also one of the major components that we cannot ignore along with the other BOS items. That kind of motivation is very important to the suppliers like us. It is not only for us but also for other inverter suppliers and even for other BOS component makers. This kind of scheme is not going to have much impact on us but if it comes into action then definitely it’s a kind of additional motivation. It will be like, the government is thinking and have some attention to the inverter companies. Currently, we are just feeling that the inverter is completely ignored by the government. Nobody talks about the inverter, it’s just 'module' talk. These are the major things, so any other additional benefits if the government can give to the players who are making an additional investment by fulfilling a requirement or 50 per cent local content. This is going to be an additional motivating factor for us.

Que: In the current scenario of global developments like the Russia-Ukraine war, chip shortage etc, how do you deal with the cost pressure?

Ans: Definitely, there is a shortage of chips and other components, that are used in the manufacturing of inverters, in the market for the last one and a half years. But now the situation is getting tougher and tougher every month and there is a lot of pressure on us to increase the pricing because the demand is huge in the market and supply is short. There is a slow down in the Indian market but in the overseas market, there is a huge demand for the products and when the demand is more and supply is short so you can understand the kind of pressure on the pricing front on the suppliers. And now because of the Russia-Ukraine war the situation is getting even worst for all industries, everyone is aware that if it doesn’t stop soon then we’ll see more impact on our industry as well. There is a shortfall and definitely, as one of the critical suppliers for this solar industry we are also facing the same challenge, however, the commitment we have given in the market and whatever we are giving right now in the market is based on the situation which is under control as of now. Right now, for Sungrow it is more or less manageable but, on the supply chain front, we are also facing the same pressure and soon we may see an increase in prices in inverter segments as well.

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