Solar Energy Corp. eyes overseas entry into Asian, African markets

India has been exploring opportunities to develop solar power projects in Asia and Africa, along with its aim of providing electricity to rural areas in such countries


Ashvini Kumar, managing director, Solar Energy Corp. of India.
Ashvini Kumar, managing director, Solar Energy Corp. of India.

New Delhi: Enthused by its domestic success, the Solar Energy Corp. of India Ltd (SECI) is exploring the possibility of an overseas foray, according to a top company executive.

India has been exploring opportunities to develop solar power projects in Asia and Africa, dovetailing that with its aim of providing electricity to rural areas in those countries.

“A lot of people from overseas come for seeking our participation…Recently people from Afghanistan had come,” according to Ashvini Kumar, managing director, SECI. Kumar added that the company was considering opening an overseas branch.

India’s state-owned hydrocarbons explorer Oil and Natural Gas Corp. Ltd set up ONGC Videsh Ltd to acquire overseas assets in a bid to protect itself from volatility in crude oil prices. A similar approach by Coal Videsh Ltd, a state-run consortium, for acquiring coal blocks overseas did not gain much traction.

“The idea is to demonstrate our capacity overseas and then go forward. We are doing a lot of work in India,” said another SECI official requesting anonymity.

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India has taken a lead role in forming the International Solar Alliance (ISA) that brings together 121 countries with abundant sunshine, situated between the Tropics of Cancer and Capricorn, with the aim of lowering solar energy costs. State run SECI has played an important role in lowering wind and solar power tariffs in India.

India is also working on a plan to make domestic manufacturing of solar power generation equipment competitive as compared with countries such as China.

The National Democratic Alliance (NDA) government raised the target for solar power production in India to 100 gigawatt (GW) by 2022 from 20,000 megawatt (MW) earlier. India’s solar power prices are set to fall below Rs3 per unit after the SECI auction of solar power projects at Bhadla, Rajasthan.

Experts believe this is a good move by SECI.

“It is certainly a good idea, when globally, developing countries are looking at increasing the renewable share and are yet to add capacity. It makes sense to enter that business space,” said Anil Razdan, former power secretary.

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“However, SECI would improve its credentials if it picks up more experience as an EPC (engineering, procurement,construction) contractor. There could also be a model where once SECI is sure of the robustness of the equipment, it can also look at setting up facilities abroad which can be contracted out for selling electricity. They have to take a call whether they would like to go as an EPC contractor or as a utility or both,” added Razdan.

ISA, the first treaty-based international government organization headquartered in India, has projected India as a global clean energy champion.

ISA was launched at the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) Conference of Parties (COP21) in Paris in November 2015.

The World Bank last year signed an agreement with the ISA to mobilize $1 trillion in investments by 2030. One of the ways the ISA is exploring to reduce costs is to aggregate demand from member nations and then call for tenders.

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