Saint-Gobain arm seeks sops for solar equipment manufacture

The French major is interested in putting up a plant in India, but feels that given the inadequacy of scale, some government support is necessary.

India is a huge emerging market for solar energy, thanks to the National Solar Mission, through which the country wants to develop 20,000 MW of installed solar power capacity.

But does India want to be only a consumer of green power or be a consumer plus a key player in the supply chain for solar equipment? Experts in the wind energy sector criticise the solar policy that it provides heavy subsidy to solar-electricity, and actually engenders production and job creation elsewhere in the world.

Mr Fabrice Didier, for one, thinks it need not be so. The Chief Executive Officer of Saint-Gobain Solar and an advisor to the French Government believes that India can be a preferred source for producing solar equipment – photo voltaic modules, mirrors, ceramics and a range of other components – only if the country gets its policy contours clear. In a chat with Business Line last week, Mr Didier, and Mr B. Santhanam, Managing Director, Saint-Gobain India, said fundamentally, there is an absence of visibility as to how the subsidy regime would be beyond 2013 — the year by which the Government would like to see 1,000 MW of capacity set up, and has announced feed-in tariffs for the generation from that capacity. “There is no visibility on the second phase,” says Mr Santhanam.

Saint-Gobain, the world's oldest and largest glass company (which has a manufacturing facility in Chennai) is keen on solar energy. Saint-Gobain Solar has a plant in Germany that can produce 20 MW of thin film PV modules, based on what is called the ‘copper-indium-gallium-selenide' (CIGS) technology.

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