Saibaba Vutukuri, Vikram Solar, Vitality Information, ET EnergyWorld

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In an exclusive interview with ETEnergyworld, Saibaba Vutukuri, Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of Vikram Solar, the Calcutta-based solar panel manufacturer and engineering, procurement and construction (EPC) company, shares his views on the recovery from the solar pandemic and the Company growth plans for the future. Edited excerpts.

What are your main political demands on the government for the next year?

The government should implement a solar energy production policy. In terms of input costs, a 5 percent interest subsidy should be implemented for term loans and working capital, as well as high reliability power supply at Average Power Acquisition Cost (APPC). When it comes to financial incentives, the government should provide centralized financial support of 25 to 30 percent in advance for investment costs and increase export incentives from 2 to 8 percent through the waiver of duties or taxes on export products. As part of a fair trade regime, the government should set tariff barriers such as basic and protective tariffs for at least 4 to 5 years and at the same time ensure that SEZs are treated the same as the DTA with regard to the collection of tariffs.

Guidelines should be in place to support existing manufacturing facilities such as a technology improvement fund for existing investments in cells and modules. The government should reserve 25 percent of domestic procurement for high efficiency or new technologies at 10 percent higher tariffs. We also need to enable gradual backwards and forwards integration in tenders for manufacturing. Finally, the government should provide a capital grant of 50 percent for the establishment of the infrastructure for research and development as well as for quality checks within the production unit.

What are the top growth highlights for your company in 2021?

Our company is ready and equipped to play a critical role in creating a self-sustaining solar manufacturing ecosystem in India, aligned with the vision of the government of Aatma Nirbhar. We will introduce, for the first time in India, a new range of technologically advanced modules that will fundamentally change the industry. We have also expanded our retail distribution network in 40 cities and ensured the availability of our solar products and solutions in 600 regions across India. We plan to further expand our current retail presence.

What kind of investment would go into realizing all of these plans in 2021?

We currently have a solar module capacity of 1.2 GW. We recently signed a memorandum of understanding with the government of Tamil Nadu to build a 3 GW solar factory in the state. In line with Aatma Nirbhar Bharat’s vision, we have announced the production of wafers, cells and modules over a period of five years.

Given the disruption caused by Covid-19, are you planning or holding back any new initiatives in the next year?

The first phase of our production unit in Tamil Nadu is expected to go into operation in March 2021. In addition to expanding production capacity, we are also on the right track with our plans for new product launches and research and development efforts.

How high will you rate the health of the RE sector at the moment on a scale from 1 to 5? Why?

My rating would be 4. Over the past six years, India has increased its installed renewable energy capacity two and a half times. Our annual capacity expansion for renewable energies has exceeded that of coal-fired power plants since 2017. The government’s unwavering determination to meet the commitments of India’s Paris Agreement is reflected in various positive policy measures, most recently in the production-based incentive system for solar panels. With political support, political security and a focus on manufacturing, India can become the global clean technology manufacturing center. The pandemic is a great opportunity for India to build an inclusive and sustainable economy.

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