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RIL in talks with China’s Hualu to make key component of solar panels

Polysilicon is used to make ingots, which are cut into wafers to manufacture solar cells. (Photo: AFP)Premium
Polysilicon is used to make ingots, which are cut into wafers to manufacture solar cells. (Photo: AFP)

The talks come after RIL chairman Mukesh Ambani unveiled a 75,000-crore push into clean energy over three years in June. RIL plans to spend 60,000 crore on four so-called giga factories. One of the four factories will make solar photovoltaic (PV) modules

NEW DELHI : Reliance Industries Ltd (RIL) is in talks with China’s Hualu Engineering and Technology Co. Ltd to make polysilicon, a key ingredient in manufacturing solar panels, two people aware of the matter said.

The talks come after RIL chairman Mukesh Ambani unveiled a 75,000-crore push into clean energy over three years in June. RIL plans to spend 60,000 crore on four so-called giga factories. One of the four factories will make solar photovoltaic (PV) modules.

Polysilicon is used to make ingots, which are cut into wafers to manufacture solar cells, from which modules are assembled. China dominates the global polysilicon market, leaving India at a disadvantage.

Hualu Engineering is majority controlled by state-owned China National Chemical Engineering Co. Ltd and provides engineering design, technology research and development, and consulting services. Separately, RIL is looking to buy solar module maker REC Group, as reported by Mint on 8 July.

“Polysilicon is required for solar PV manufacturing. RIL is in talks with Hualu for polysilicon manufacturing," one of the two people cited above said, requesting anonymity.

“As a policy, we do not comment on media speculation and rumours. Our company evaluates various opportunities on an ongoing basis," a spokesperson for RIL said.

The company, which generates more than half of its revenue from refining and chemicals, is pivoting to clean energy with plans to set up the Dhirubhai Ambani Green Energy Giga Complex on 5,000 acres in Jamnagar, as announced by Ambani at RIL’s annual general meeting. In addition to an integrated solar PV module giga factory, RIL also plans to set up giga factories for electrolyzer, fuel cell and energy storage, respectively. RIL has been firming up its green energy push and, as part of this green energy pivot, also plans to help set up 100 gigawatts (GW) of solar energy by 2030.

“Our first integrated solar photovoltaic giga factory will create solar energy. We will start with raw silica and convert this to polysilicon, which we will convert to ingot and wafers. These wafers would be used to make high-efficiency solar cells and finally assembled into solar modules of highest quality and durability," Ambani said in his speech at RIL’s annual general meeting on 24 June.

Queries emailed to Hualu Engineering and China National Chemical Engineering Co. on Sunday remained unanswered till press time.

Despite running the world’s largest green energy programme, India has a domestic manufacturing capacity of only 3GW for solar cells and 15GW for solar modules. Chinese solar equipment manufacturers such as Trina Solar Ltd, Jinko Solar, ET Solar, Chint Solar, and GCL-Poly Energy Holdings Ltd dominate the solar equipment space.

To check imports from China as part of its economic strategy, India has imposed a basic customs duty on imported solar cells and modules from 1 April next year. Also, the ministry of new and renewable energy has issued an order enforcing a list of approved solar PV models and module manufacturers for government-supported schemes, including projects from where distribution companies procure electricity for supply to their consumers.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi earlier said India aims to end its import dependence on all equipment, including solar panels, as part of its self-reliance campaign. On Monday, vice president M. Venkaiah Naidu also called for increasing the production of solar PV cells and modules in the country.

“Because climate change is a global problem, the clean energy transition calls for the widest possible global cooperation in technology development, investments and fair market access," Ambani said at the International Climate Summit recently, where he also said the company will bring down green hydrogen cost to under $2 per kg by 2030.

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