New norms for solar equipment to discourage Chinese imports

The ministry of new and renewable energy has redefined quality norms for photovoltaic (PV) cells and panels in order to contain cheap products from hampering the National Solar Mission.

According to the renewable energy ministry's Solar Photovoltaics, Systems, Devices and Components Goods (Requirements for Compulsory Registration) Order, 2017, the government will allow the of sale solar equipment and components only if they are registered and approved by the Bureau of Indian Standards – a move that industry executives say can help domestic manufacturers and discourage imports of inferior Chinese gear.

Sub-standard or defective goods that do not conform to the specified standard shall be disposed of as scrap. These norms will be valid for a year.

''No person shall by himself or through any person on his behalf manufacture or store for sale, import, sell or distribute Goods which do not conform to the Specified Standard and do not bear the Standard Mark as notified by the Bureau for such Goods from time to time after obtaining registration from the Bureau,'' the order said.

The order exempts goods manufactured for export from India but lays down stringent conditions for any defect if it is to be used in Indian projects.

Equipment that is found defective or sub-standard ''shall be deformed beyond use and disposed of as a scrap by the manufacturer or the representative of overseas manufacturer from liaison office or branch office located in India or by any agency authorised by the manufacturer as its authorised representative in the India,'' it said.

Authorities can seek information, inspect the premises of the manufacturer or seller, seize goods or collect samples from the market or the factory for testing in a laboratory established or recognised by BIS.

''No manufacturer shall refuse to give any information lawfully demanded from him ... or conceal, destroy, mutilate or deface any book or document relating thereto in his possession or control,'' the order said.

The standards have been defined for solar PV modules, films, wafers, power converters, solar inverters and storage battery.

Cheap Chinese imports have helped project developers bid aggressively at auctions, but local equipment manufacturers have complained that they are being priced out by low-quality Chinese imports. They have also sought anti-dumping duties on Chinese imports.

An official from the ministry told BusinessLine that the government would be sampling solar panels, cells and modules that are already in the country. The norms will focus on efficiency and generation, the official added. The norms have also made it mandatory for any user of solar PV systems to make an application to the Bureau of Indian Standards and register for the use of the Standard Mark in respect of the Indian Standard.

According to The Economic Times, industry executives say that the probable imposition of anti-dumping duties and the order on abiding by BIS standards is likely to encourage foreign companies to set up manufacturing units in India, which is one of the world's biggest markets for solar equipment.

The one-year time given for implementation of the latest order is expected to give industry enough time to adjust to the quality and registration rules.