Rahul Gupta, CEO, RaysExperts
Leveraging over 450 Megawats (MW) of consulting portfolio experience, RaysExperts has been an active player in the solar industry and has emerged as a leader. Due to shortage of non-renewable sources of energy, solar energy sector of India has been growing rapidly since past few years, mainly due to government initiatives, informs Rahul Gupta, CEO, RaysExperts in an interaction with Electrical India...
Can you please take us through the journey of RaysExperts?
RaysExperts began its journey from hostel rooms of IIT Roorkee as a consultancy service. I was in final year studying civil engineering at IIT Roorkee. After deciding officially to constitute a private limited company as Rays Power Experts Private Limited, I envisioned setting up a 5MW solar power plant at young age of 22. This was a humble start to what will become Poster Company of Indian solar dream.
Architecting the concept of India’s first Private Solar Park, RaysExperts established its first solar park in Kolayat village of Bikaner district in Rajasthan. Within a span of just six years, the company has become one of the emerging solar companies of India. RaysExperts has been ranked in the top 10 solar companies of India by Bridge to India in Ground Mounted EPC, Ground Mounted Open Access, Rooftop Project, Rooftop EPC categories. Today, RaysExperts has established more than 230MWs of solar plants across India. RaysExperts has developed more than 600 acres of private solar farms. Their clientele includes both government and private sector.
What are the services catering to the solar sector offered by the company?
RaysExperts serves to both ground mounted and rooftop segments offering services. Key segments are:
• EPC Services
• End-to-End Solar Project Development
• O&M Services
• Rooftop Solar
The government has set the target of generating one lakh MW of solar power by 2022. What kind of opportunities will it generate for the Indian solar sector?
India is ranked number one in terms of solar electricity production per watt installed. Due to shortage of non-renewable sources of energy, solar energy sector of India has been growing rapidly since past few years, mainly due to government initiatives. India took a long jump in solar sector; six years back India was at 10MW installed capacity. Now, it is more than 8,000 MW. This rapid growth is expected to continue in the future. This will generate ample opportunities:
• The solar sector will expand itself by 10,000 times in just 12 years. From 10 MW in 2010 to 100,000 MW in 2022
• Massive employment generation across all income segments
• Huge growth for localized businesses dealing in equipment, hardware, machinery etc
• Huge growth potential for service providers like welders, pilers, fencers, security agencies, contractors etc across India
• Biggest ever opportunity for finance sector to grow by leaps as USD 100 bn would be needed to reach 100 GW. This will also add up in the national GDP
With this target, what kind of potential do you envisage for your company?
We have always seen the growth of Indian Solar & RaysExperts in parallel frames. With this mammoth target, opportunities to become leader of the sector are ample. With the right approach towards the ever changing scenario of falling tariffs, falling panel prices & rising competition, it is a tough task.
We hope to become the largest solar company in India with an aim to become the most widely respected practitioner of solar industry. We have a solid foundation, a thrilling momentum and we hope to fire it up.
What are the challenges faced during setup of a solar park? How do you manage financial closure for the project?
When we set out to set up our first solar park, the challenges were like a big mountain. There was practically nothing to begin with. No practical knowhow, no land, no skilled labor and biggest of all - no investment. We travelled to Rajasthan in scorching heat to find land. After a few attempts, we ended up convincing local people of Kolayat to give up their land on sale or lease.
On a parallel front, the hunt for investor was progressing. We had a consultancy background which became RaysExperts. One of leads worked and the investment was arranged. While the construction was going on, we even faced opposition from the local unions & sarpanchs for not employing labor from the local villages.
The supply of materials was also a big issue. Our first solar park was set up in Bikaner. At that time in 2011, there was no readily available infrastructure in Bikaner to set up solar parks. We had to depend on Delhi market for the supply of materials, equipment and service providers.
Acquiring land for solar park is the biggest bottleneck. How do you tackle this issue?
A business is successful because all involved stakeholders enjoy its success. It is true that despite being such a large country, acquiring land for harnessing solar power is tough.
At RaysExperts, we have constantly worked on innovating financial models around buying or leasing land enabling us to effectively source land directly from its owners. As of today, RaysExperts has around 500 acres of land acquired in different parts of the country.
We have also used technology around defined process sets to optimize the time taken to make a land pocket solar ready and makes installation process faster and efficient.
What are the projects under implementation? What is the target for this fiscal?
There are many projects under implementation right now. We are a technology driven company and thus, we always need to improve ourselves. Apart from setting up new solar plants in Haryana, Madhya Pradesh & South India, we have also scaled up the rooftop business last year.
During the year 2016-17, we were ranked 5th largest Project Developer in OA category and 7th largest in the Rooftop category in India installing a total of more than 100 MW. This fiscal, we aim to add a total of 200 MW combined capacity in Rays Solar Parks, Outside Solar Parks, Captive & Rooftop Projects.
What is impact of WTO ruling against India’s domestic content requirement (DCR) on the sector?
The impact of this ruling came as a threat to India’s local solar panel manufacturers. Some countries were able to sell panels in India at a lower than domestic price, solar imports of India surged to top 90% of the total imports. This resulted in falling solar prices and cost of panel fell by 40% in just three quarters. This leads to lower than ever solar tariffs (Rs 2.44/Unit) which in return caused a down wave in the Indian solar industry.
The events that followed after the ruling came against India’s DCR lead to a hesitated mindset of investors and project developers. If you do the maths, such low tarrifs will drastically reduce the profitability of solar projects which can lead to thinner profits and cutting corner practices. The bright side is that this has forced entire industry to innovate and coming up with magically different business models to keep up with the constantly evolving market dynamics.
The Government has up-scaled the target of renewable energy capacity to 175 GW by the year 2022 which includes 100 GW from solar, 60 GW from wind, 10 GW from bio-power and 5 GW from small hydro-power. Going ahead, can India become a renewable energy hub?
India is already a renewable energy hub since decades being the first country to setup the Ministry of Non-Conventional Energy sources. Other countries look up to us for making their policy frameworks.
India is ranked number one in terms of solar electricity production per watt installed; Number one market in Asia for solar off-grid products; All the major rivers in the country are dammed and are producing power. Considering India has one of the most complex river systems in the world, we are already doing great. Though there are areas where we lack too like ethanol blending, electric cars etc, there is a lot of positive hope for the future.
With acute participation from people of India and effective regulation by the Government of India, we can become world’s largest renewables based economy.
What are your expectations from the government for this sector?
Stating that government is the keystone for the success of solar industry in India will be an understatement. Government is the ideator, incubator and influencer of the solar dream.
For fact, during early 1980s, India became the first country in the world to officially set up a department of Non-Conventional Energy under the Ministry of Energy which later became Ministry of Renewable Energy in 1992.
Government has pushed the bar by introducing a formal framework of policies, incentives and regulations in the industry. But to meet the target of 100GW by 2022, a lot more needs to be done at a lot faster speed. We can broadly classify expectations from government under following heads:
- Strict implementation of policies & introduction of penalties for non-compliance of regulations. It will allow for a steady foundation for the solar industries to thrive.
- Looking at Indian GDP growth alongside solar industry growth: Currently, India imports 90% of its solar panels from China or Malayasia. So much imports of solar panels is harmful for local industries as well as national GDP.
- Enabling Make in India in solar by pumping finance infrastructure: As of today, India’s largest solar manufacturer has the capacity of producing 300 MW in a year which is seven times less than the top Chinese solar panel manufacturer.
- Long term, politically agnostic policies: Government has to understand that changing leadership shouldn’t affect the growth of Solar.
Finance Infrastructure: Solar financing is still a big problem to solve. Without the support of the government, this problem can never be solved.