Kyocera to Shut down its US Manufacturing unit

Kyocera Solar is in talks to shut down its manufacturing unit in San Diego in USA. The company wants to shut down its US plant citing there was low demand in this unit.  The company’s PV business is performing very well due to the recent rise in demand in Japan. The closure of the Kyocera unit in San Diego would involve laying off of more than 20 jobs. The company feels it needs to focus more on its Tijuana plant in Mexico.

Read about Kyocera Solar Panels Review.

Kyocera is one of the oldest solar panel manufacturers and is second only to Sharp amongst the Japanese companies. It  also manufactures industrial ceramics, telecommunications equipment, office document imaging equipment, electronic components, semiconductor packages, cutting tools, and components for medical and dental implant systems. Kyocera Solar Corp. in Japan was founded in 1996 and Kyocera Solar, Inc. in the U.S. was founded in 1999. The company has production bases in Japan, Mexico, Europe and China and is planning a factory in California as well. The company plans to reach 1000 MW of production by 2013.

 At the global industrial summit – Vibrant Gujarat, the massive banking group Mizhou signed a MOU to build a 200 MW solar power plant in Gujarat which could be scaled upto 2 GW. The plant will be supplied by Kycoera.

According to local media reports, the subsidiary of Japanese conglomerate Kyocera is struggling with large orders for its modules and has responded by slimming down its workforce.

In a statement to local newspaper U-T San Diego, Cecilia Aguillon, director of government relations for Kyocera Solar, said the reductions would affect 23 staff, while a further 85 temporary positions would be filled by an external agency.

India’s RPO Model

India’s energy industry is a royal mess in all respects be it mining, electricity generation or distribution. Large parts of the populance do not get electricity at all and those who do are faced with 8-10 hour long power cuts. I have written countless times about the problems of the electricity industry. The government is to blame for the whole mess given that bad governance is at the root of every problem. India’s useless leaders are loath to correct the situation and the industry remains in a morass. In such a situation the growth of India’s renewable energy industry is extremely difficult. The main tool used by the government in boosting green energy was the RPO model, in which electricity distributors and users were forced to buy a portion of their needs from clean energy sources. However despite the start of the policy with much fanfare and the trading of RECs in energy exchanges, the end result has been a complete failure.

Read Renewable Certificate Prices in India Volatile on GWI.

Government’s Failure to enforce RPO

Again the guilty party behind this mess is the Indian government and its regulators. They have devastated entire industries through delays and corruption. Telecom, Real Estate, Aviation etc. remain in an endless downturn as the government refuses to solve the regulatory issues. The RPO mechanism has been made a dodo by the CERC, as defaulting organizations are not being penalized for meeting their RPO obligations. The green energy producers who had set up their plants basing their entire business model on RPO are now royally screwed. Trading in the energy exchanges like IEX see a massive amount of RECs being put for sale at the floor price with no bids. The reason is that the distributors are not buying their mandanted RECs. Those buyers who had bought RECs earlier are kicking themselves in the ass. CERC and other states refuse to fine or force the distributors in buying the RECs. This means that no new green power plants will be set up and the whole RPO policy will fail. One fails to understand the convoluted logic of the Indian regulators and policy makers. Why did they make a policy which they did not want to enforce.

India has ambitious policies of generating 15% of its energy in 2020 from green energy sources. Given the current trends and stupidity, it will be a big feat if they mange to reach even 10%. India’s energy situation is getting bleaker by the day, as India is massively fuel deficient and imports most of its oil, natural gas and coal needs. Renewable Energy particulary solar energy is an answer to India’s power problem. But the “damn I care” attitude of the Indian leaders will keep the energy problem alive and kicking.

Problems of REC Market

REC policy in India which was unfurled with great fanfare in 2011 is suffering because of a lack of enforcement from states. According to the RPO, a certain percentage of a state’s electricity generation must come from clean energy sources. States and utilities which can’t meet their  renewable energy requirements can buy REC from Indian Energy Exchanges to meet their needs. Power Exchanges in India have already set the ball rolling in terms of trading in RECs. However, the REC policy which was meant to be the primary subsidy for green energy generation in India based on market rates is currently in a limbo. Though there is enough supply of RECs in the energy exchanges, there is not enough demand as states are not forcing their utilities and industries to meet their renewable power purchase obligations (RPO).  The trading has been lack-lustre as there is no urgency for states to buy REC until the end of the fiscal year in March when they have to meet their compliance numbers. This has led to low illiquid trading of Renewable Energy Certificate which has made price discovery difficult. Also it acts as a major problem for green energy producers as they can’t get remunerative prices as the market does not exist in a proper form.

1) REC Markets are notoriously difficult to set up and run – India has started a Renewable Energy Certificate (REC) Scheme recently to boost the share of Clean Energy Sources in India’s Electricity Mix. India’s Electricity Regulator (CERC) has come out with a notification making it mandatory for Electricity Utilities to buy 6% of their requirements from Green EnergySources. However the REC Scheme still faces teething problems in its implementation. It would take a couple of years for a well developed market in RECs to develop if everything goes to plan. Note REC are notoriously difficult to implement as Italy and Australia have found out. High Prices led to Booms while Low Prices lead to a Green Bust while it is impossible to set the Perfect Right Price.

2) Volatile REC Prices – However the market for REC remains volatile due to the fact there is a lot of uncertainty with RPO. The biggest source of this problem is the fact that RPO is not enforceable by the regulator. If the state slips in its RPO, it does not have to bear any penalty or punishment. Given the pathetic state of the electricity distributors in the state with billions of dollars in debt, it seems unlikely that they will buy expensive green energy to meet their RPO.

Hindu

About a year back, this writer asked the Chairman of the Central Electricity Regulatory Commission Promod Deo, whether the State electricity regulatory commissions would enforce the ‘renewable purchase obligation’. (Under this, specified ‘obligated entities’ are mandated, by law, to either purchase costlier green power, or buy ‘renewable energy certificates’ from the market.) He replied that it was like asking whether policemen would catch thieves.Some of the ‘obligated entities’ which were good boys in meeting their obligations, are now kicking themselves for having done so.As a consequence of this, the renewable energy sector in the country feels short-changed. This is a pity, given that, the world over, the accent is on developing this very sector for producing energy through environment-friendly means.

UNKEPT PROMISE

India has 3,400 MW under the two-year-old REC mechanism. This means that the owners of these power plants have opted to sell the electricity at non-premium tariffs and get RECs that can be sold in the market. Who will buy these RECs? The ‘obligated entities’. The promise that the ‘obligated entities’ shall provide the demand for the RECs in the market is one made by law. These power plants are today suffering for having put trust into that promise.Today, the market is awash with RECs, with about 20 lakh of them valued not less than Rs 300 crore, looking for buyers. There is just one more trading session (which will happen on March 27) for the current year, or just one more opportunity for the obligated entities to meet their obligations. Nobody is betting they will.

SPECIOUS ARGUMENT

It is the job of the State electricity regulatory commissions to ensure that the obligated entities in their States fall in line. Tamil Nadu, Karnataka and Himachal Pradesh are fully compliant, but none of the other regulators has taken due action in terms of collecting the penalty. Some States such as Maharashtra, Gujarat and Punjab have allowed the obligated entities one more year’s time.However, in some States (such as Tamil Nadu, which is the bastion of wind power in the country), the power producers are allowed to sell their electricity in the market (‘open access’) at any price. Often, this price is sufficient to yield a profit. But still they get the RECs.

SYSTEMIC PROBLEM

If you distil it further, you will see that the problem is systemic. First, ‘electricity’ is a ‘concurrent’ subject and each State is free to legislate at its own will. That is why there is no commonality between the regulations, and the existence of a ‘Forum of Regulators’ does not seem to have helped bring in this essential commonality.Second, it is difficult not to entertain a feeling that there is what is called ‘regulatory capture’ — state regulators are handpicked by the State governments and often the regulator is “our man”.Third, at a larger level, there is no mechanism to make a wayward discom fall in line other than to go to the regulator and thence the Appellate Tribunal for Electricity. If the intent is to nurture the renewable energy sector, there should be a way by which the Centre could pay the industry first and deduct the amounts from the central devolutions to the States.

Investment Climate

Investment Climate is a broad concept which encompasses all the factors affecting business decisions which includes profitability, location, etc. to a name a few.

It is needless to say that a good investment climate would undoubtedly provide sufficient opportunity and incentive to firms to invest productively. This will not only help the firms grow and increase profitability but will also result in creating jobs, thus playing a vital role in sustainable development and poverty reduction.

Some of the key factors which influence the investment climate are as follows:

  • Availability of input factors like Land, Labor, Raw materials, etc. and the ease of using them
  • Availability of suitable requirements like physical and social infrastructure which includes power, telecom, water supply, hospitals and educational institutions
  • Availability of proper governance and regulatory framework to safeguard the interest of the stakeholders
  • Proper guidelines regarding the operation environment of the firm and the entry exit policy
  • Clear mention about the investment policy and expansion policy
  • Mention of access to credit

If we talk about West Bengal, the state situated in eastern India having the most diversified culture and ethnicity, we find West Bengal to be the 13th largest state in terms of area. The state is densely populated and is the leading producer of several goods including agricultural products. Agricultural output ranks third in India and it offers a tremendous potential for agri-business owing to the fertile soil and climatic conditions.

West Bengal enjoys being the largest producer of vegetables and fruits in the country and second largest producer of Potato. Also the state is the leading producer of leather goods and over 70% of the country’s leather goods are exported from the state. Some of the other key industries in West Bengal are Jute Industry and Paper Industry.

Industrial Environment development in WB

As far as the industrial environment is concerned, WB is highly conducive for new investments as the infrastructural facilities including power, water, etc. are being developed.  Growth Centers developed in the state are some of the ideal locations for setting up of the industry. Growth Centers are suitably surrounded by the availability of skilled and unskilled labor.

Setting up of industrial parks, special economic zones (SEZs), agri-economic zones, etc. by the government are some of the steps taken towards the development of the state. The steps by the government also include a comprehensive compensation and rehabilitation package for the individuals whose land will be used to set up industries. The policy formulated by government along with the development in the state welcomes the investment not only from domestic players but also foreign investors.

Some of the areas of special attention for the state are petrochemicals, iron and steel, metallurgical and engineering, textile, food processing, pharmaceutical, IT etc. A place for PPP (Public Private Partnership) is also implemented in the state which will help in the improvement of the physical and social infrastructure. The WBIDC or the West Bengal Industrial Development Corporation is the premier state government agency which is responsible for the promoting of industrial and infrastructure investments. The single window facility of the state also known as the ‘State Investment Facilitation Centre’ (SIFC) is one of the only facilities in the state which helps in the development and upbringing of industries.

Lastly, the policy named “Look East Policy” of the Government of India has been implemented by the state, to attract investment in some of the key prospective areas. Thus we can conclude by saying that the West Bengal state has developed to a great extent in all these years and the state is one of the sought after states for investment as the climatic, geographic, demographic profile of the state is too lucrative for growth.

I had earlier written about how India is being made a sucker by the US government which has filed a case against India at the WTO, about domestic content requirements for solar panels. Top US Green Groups think the same thing as they have requested the US trade representative to take back this wholly unjustified trade fight against India. The Indian solar panel manufacturers have been decimated by foreign solar panel producers who have a huge cost and financial advantage over the Indian producers. US solar panel company First Solar (FSLR) has captured a majority of the Indian market taking advantage of a loophole in India’s JNNSM federal solar subsidy program. This allows the free use of thin film solar technology panels in Indian solar power plants without any restriction. FSLR has used the loophole to supply its cheap modules to the Indian power producers, using US Exim Bank financing. Most Indian solar panel makers have either gone bankrupt (Moser Baer) or running their factories at pathetic utilization rates. They have cried themselves hoarse for some protection from the government but that has not helped.

With India’s JNNSM Phase 2 about to start, there was a possibility that the Indian government would take heed. But US government is trying to take preemptive action by filing the WTO case. Most governments protect their domestic industries through the domestic content measure. Italy, France, Canada and even US have laws to boost domestic solar manufacturing. But US has shown the height of hypocrisy by suing India at WTO without changing its “Buy America” laws. The US has also conveniently forgotten the anti-dumping duties it has imposed on imports of Chinese solar panels and cells. The corruption and the lethargic Indian government has done nothing to protect its solar industry. Lets hope some sense dawns on the Indian government and its fights for its manufacturers.

Read more about Solar Power in India.

Which Companies make Solar Panels in India

There are a number of Companies manufacturing Solar Panels in India and the domestic content requirements of JNNSM will give a further impetus to indigenous solar production in India. While upstream solar products like polysilicon and wafers are made outside of India, downstream solar products like cells and modules are made by some companies in India. Note most of the solar panels made in India is done through mainstream crystalline silicon manufacturing while a very small amount of production by Moser Baer is done through Thin Film amorphous Silicon (a-Si) Technology. The costs of the Indian manufacturers are higher than integrated Chinese companies like Trina Solar, LDK which make raw materials in-house. Due to low costs of transportation it might be cheaper for consumers to import solar panels from outside of India.

Read more about Solar Panels in India.

List of Major Solar Panel Companies in India

1) Tata BP Solar – Tata BP Solar is a Joint Venture between Tata Power Company and BP Solar. This Tata Company has one of the biggest and oldest solar panel manufacturing operations in the country. The company’s 84 MW Solar Cell manufacturing facility is capable of processing mono and multi crystalline wafers of 125mm2 and 156mm2. The company’s 125 MW module manufacturing facility is one of the largest in Asia. Their products include customized solar illumination solutions. Tata BP Solar is perhaps the best solar lighting provider in India given the brandname and inhouse manufacturing of solar components.It has a range of Solar Lighting Solutions based on LED and non LED lights. The company has huge plans in wind,solar and geothermal energy

2) Moser Baer – is one of India’s leading technology companies, established in 1983. Moser Baer’s flagship company, Moser Baer India Limited (MBIL) is the world’s second largest manufacturer of optical storage media. Moser Baer Solar Limited is a subsidiary of MBIL. The Group’s photovoltaic manufacturing business was established between 2005 and 2007 with the primary objective of providing solar power as competitive & reliable source of energy. Its products include Multicrystalline cells & modules and Thin Film modules. This is primarily a Solar Panel Production Company which has recently made a big bet to get into the Power Production Space as well. Moser Baer Projects Private in which the Blackstone Group made a $300 million bet  has plans of a 20:80 mix of Green and Dirty Power.

3) Solar Semiconductor – is an international organization that offers  PV solutions, products and services to worldwide markets including the Americas, Europe, Asia and Africa. It manufactures its own PV modules and cells. Solar Semiconductor currently has a 195 MW manufacturing capacity and various Systems Integration projects around the world. It offers a comprehensive range of products including complete system kits and PV modules for grid connected as well off-grid applications. A Producer of Solar Power Modules and Cells, it renders services in Solar Installation as well. It also has a small capacity to produce silicon based solar cells or solar panels or both.

4) IndoSolar – is the leading Indian manufacturer of solar photovoltaic cells. Its manufacturing capacity is 360 MWp. The company has capacity to produce both multi and mono crystalline cells.

5) Topsun Solar – is one of the leading solar power solution manufacturers in India & International market. The company has vast experience in Renewable specific to SPV technology & solutions. The Company’s strongest areas are solar Telecom power system, KW to MW SPV Power Plant, Village electrification & Home lighting system. Its manufacturing unit is established with latest technology with their own R&D facilities for future development in solar solutions.

6) Titan Energy – is a major competitor in the distributed, renewable, and alternative energy industries and a leader in development and support for new energy-related technology.

7) PLG Power – is a vertically integrated company operating in the PV sector since 2008. The company is a part of a big, well-established Indian Group, PLG Group, which is almost 100 years old company diversified into numerous businesses in Asia and Middle-East.

8) Maharishi Solar – has a vertically Integrated manufacturing facility to produce multi-crystalline silicon ingots, Multi Crystalline wafers, Multi/Mono Solar cells, SPV modules and SPV systems in Andhra Pradesh. Maharishi Solar also designs, engineers and manufactures a wide range of Solar Panels, Solar Water Heaters, Solar Air Conditioning Systems, Swimming Pool Heating etc. for various Residential, Commercial & Industrial projects.

9) Kotak Urja Pvt. Ltd. – is one of the pioneering companies in India dedicated to the promotion of eco-friendly and environmentally safe renewable energy technologies. The company has forayed into solar PV technologies by establishing at that time an advanced PV module manufacturing facility. Over the years, Kotak Urja has developed expertise in Design, Engineering, Manufacturing, Integration & Installation of a broad range of solar thermal & solar photovoltaic systems and aspires to achieve a dominant position in the growing PV market in both India & globally.

10) Photon Energy Systems – established in 1995, is a leading manufacturer of Solar PV Modules, PV Systems and Solar Thermal Systems in India.

Hindu

A dozen-odd eminent American and international organisations have asked the US to reconsider its decision to drag India to WTO over solar energy policy.In a letter to the US Trade Representative (USTR) yesterday, these organisations have said that dragging India to the World Trade Organisation (WTO) related to local content in solar panels would not only undercut New Delhi’s effort to reduce poverty, but was also detrimental to developing a solar energy industry.

The organisations are 350.org, ActionAid USA, Center for Biological Diversity, Center for Food Safety, Center for International Environmental Law, Earth Day Network, EcoEquity, Friends of the Earth US, Global Exchange, Greenpeace USA, Institute for Policy Studies, Global Economy Project and Sierra Club.

Apple Samsung Technology War

Samsung is set to capture almost 40% of the global handset market (up from 29% in 2012), thanks to its new flagship smartphone S4. While iPhone is only set to release the latest iPhone 5 by Q3 2013, Samsung has already showcased its new flagship S4 and will roll out the new phone at more than 350 telecom carriers around the world by May 2013. This will give Samsung a leg up in its fight against Apple in the smartphone market. Samsung has captured the smartphone market by rapidly introducing new and innovative phones at short intervals. It is being able to offer better smartphones at the same or cheaper price than its principal competitors.

Read on GWI how Tablets become Ground Zero of Technology Wars as Smartphone becomes Samsung and Apple Duopoly.

One of the main reasons behind Samsung’s success is its integrated hardware model. The company makes its own memory, processors and displays. In fact it is the biggest supplier of components to Apple and other smartphone companies. Samsung is the biggest memory company in the world and amongst the top display manufacturers as well. Its huge semiconductor fabs has also made it one of the biggest foundries as well. The company does not face any component shortages like Qualcomm or Apple. It is also able to use the latest component technologies in its phones (AMOLED etc.). This gives it a bit edge over other phone suppliers. While other companies would face trouble in managing such a lot of moving parts, this South Korean conglomerate has managed such a diverse business quite adroitly till now.

Samsung still dependent on Google’s Android

While Samsung continues to rule the roost for now, it faces danger from its high dependence on Google’s Android operating system. Google is set to come out with newer smartphones as its Motorola unit reorganizes and comes out with better models. Samsung also faces a threat from the new Chinese competitors like Huawei, ZTE and Lenovo who are coming out with smartphones almost as good as Samsung using Android. While Samsung is trying to defuse this threat by putting more emphasis on software (Tizen and Smart Play), I am not sure it can transform into a software heavyweight.

DigiTimes

Samsung will extend its mobile handset market share lead over its nearest competitor to 11 percentage points in 2013, thanks to the launch of its latest Galaxy S handset, IHS iSuppli said in a new report.

The Samsung Galaxy S4 introduced last month has not yet hit market shelves, but IHS already provided an optimistic outlook for Samsung’s handset market share lead in 2013.

IHS iSuppli: Top-5 handset vendors in 2012 (ranking by unit shipments)
Rank

Company

2011

2012

1

Samsung

24%

29%

2

Nokia

30%

24%

3

Apple

7%

10%

4

ZTE

6%

6%

5

LG

6%

4%

Source: IHS iSuppli, compiled by Digitimes, March 2013

Videocon, Reliance to set up Chip Manufacturing Plants in India

India is totally dependent on imports for its technology hardware needs, as the country has almost no semiconductor fabs or even electronic assembly factories. The country has been trying to promote solar and semiconductor industries through a number of subsidies for a long time. However, these initiatives have not resulted in any big semiconductor fab and even the small number of solar manufactures are dying in the face of a flood of cheap solar panel imports. The reason is that Indian policy makers lack both commitment and vision about the electronics industry in India. Despite having a huge technological talent pool, India has not been able to take advantage. The country is trying to revive the industry again through new sops and incentives. It has appointed a “top consultant” Accenture (more money down the drain) to help it formulate a policy.

Read about Telecom Companies in India.

Semiconductor giants like Freescale and others had evinced an interest in setting up a fab in India last time but nothing came out of it. Now MNCs have even stopped showing interest in setting up a factory, let alone actually invest to set up something. India is projected to import a gargantuan $200 billion in tech hardware by 2020. This has made even India’s useless politicians sit up and take notice. Boosting semiconductor manufacturing should not be very hard. Even small countries like Taiwan and South Korea have a huge industry. India can not only give tax and duty subsidies but also make it mandatory to use domestic semiconductor components. Domestic conglomerates like Videocon and Reliance are willing to invest billions of dollars if the policy environment is right. India should go all out to ensure that these plants come up. Otherwise the country will become dependent on others for technology as well as energy.

Read on GWI Mobile Phone Companies in India.

Hindu

Home-grown electronics brand Videocon and Reliance Industries are ready to set up chip manufacturing plants.In proposals sent to the Government for setting up semiconductor fabrication plants, the two companies have offered to invest some Rs 25,000 crore on the condition that the Government provides incentives.

Though Reliance declined to comment, industry sources said the Mukesh Ambani firm was looking to invest close to Rs 18,000 crore in the project. The company has sought subsidy worth Rs 4,000 crore. The plant is likely to come up in Jamanagar SEZ or Navi Mumbai if the Government accepts the proposal.

MARKET POTENTIAL

Semiconductor fabrication is essential to promote local manufacture of electronic items. From smartphones to television to cars, every thing electronic has an in-built chipset that controls its operation. Globally, chipset market is dominated by Intel, Qualcomm, AMD and Texas Instruments. According to the Department of Electronics and Information Technology, the demand for electronics hardware in the country is projected to increase from $45 billion in 2009 to $400 billion by 2020.

Recently, the Finance Ministry announced zero customs duty on plant and machinery for semiconductor facilities. Minister for Communications and Information Technology Kapil Sibal had on Monday said the government had received two proposals for semiconductor manufacturing plants but did not name the companies.