JNNSM A Fraud?

India has been rocked by scams in almost all industrial sectors be it telecom, aviation, real estate, construction, defence etc. Renewable energy is not immune to the general malaise and recently a large solar scam was unearthed in India’s southern state of Kerala. Top ministers were involved with actresses making it a regular “tamasha”. As usual nothing came out of it as is the wont with all corruption scandals in India involving top politicians/ bureaucrats. The media circus continues for a month or two before a new corruption scandal comes up. The scandal investigation mainly consists of hyperbole by both sides with little grounding in facts.

Read on GWI India Solar Subsidy JNNSM Guide – What you needed to know.
The Left wind parties in India have termed the whole India solar subsidy scheme a scandal on the basis of the Kerala scandal. We examine if this is true or not. My first impression is that India’s solar subsidy scheme has managed to get one of the lowest electricity rates in the world with solar developers earning little in the way of profits. The reverse auction scheme has seen over competition leading to losses for many of the developers. This means that the scope of corruption is low given that there are little profits to be siphoned off.

The allegations is that while the government pays $3.5/watt for an off grid solar power plant the cost is only $1.1/watt. This is total bollocks. Even the biggest utility solar power plants in the world will cost at least $1.1-1.3/watt in the world with their large economies of scale. Small rooftop solar power plants cost much more as the installation and commissioning costs are much higher. Balance of System costs also are higher for the smaller power plants as they lack the scale. Likewise permitting, inspection and testing costs will be higher. It will cost at least $2.5-3/watt for building an off grid solar power plant, which means that this accusation of windfall profits being made by empaneled solar vendors is nothing but hyperbole.

Business Line

The MPs said the benchmark price fixed by the Government agencies for the off-grid roof top solar units is around 2,10,000 per 1 KVA. They said in Kerala, a consumer pays Rs 1,15,000 to install 1 KVA solar power at his house, while the balance of Rs 95,000 will go to the empanelled Solar Company, through the implementing agency of the State as Centre and State Government subsidies. The MPs argued that the actual cost of panels is about Rs 70,000 per 1 KVA. “This is resulting into windfall profits for companies who are ‘fortunate’ enough to get empanelled by the Government. By investing just Rs 70,000, these companies are getting a profit of around Rs 1,40,000 thousand, which is a profit of 200 per cent,” the MPs said in the letter.

Sharp’s Revenues Double Itself

The Japanese electronics giant Sharp has seen its revenues from solar sales double in the first quarter of 2013 to almost $850 million, as Japan is all set to become the largest/ 2nd largest market in the world for solar panels. Japan has been seeing a huge surge in solar panel demand as the fixed feed in tariff given by the Japanese government for electricity generated by solar panels is leading to crazily high returns. Every big Japanese company whether it is a gambler, oil and gas, telecom company etc. is jumping into the solar plant construction business. Not only are the large mega megawatt solar farms booming in Japan, but also residential rooftop solar installations.

Read more about Japanese Solar Panels here.

Sharp Faces Stiff Competition

Sharp has been battered in all its businesses by competition from the Asian countries such as Korea and China. Sharp has seen its display and electronics business erode due to competition from Samsung and others. In the solar energy segment too Sharp has seen its numero uno position in solar panel sales, being decimated by the Chinese solar majors such as Yingli Green Energy (YGE). Sharp has already decided to get out of a number of markets in solar energy and is also shutting down some of the unprofitable solar panel capacity. The company is in talks to sell a portion of itself to Taiwanese EMS Hon Hai. Samsung has already taken a small equity stake in Sharp to provide the much needed equity. Sharp has now gotten a great tailwind in the form of the Japanese solar boom but I don’t think it will last too long.

Sharp cannot compete in costs with the Chinese companies and the only major reason for its doubling of sales is the domestic Japanese market, where it has the home market advantage. Once the boom peters out, Sharp will again see its sales dwindle. The company manages to sell its high cost panels mostly in the Japanese market and has been edged out in other developed markets. In the booming countries like China it has no market share to speak of. While the yen deprecation might help save the company, it is hard to see a future for Sharp in solar panel manufacturing.

Solar Frontier is a Japanese company which was earlier known as Showa Shell Solar. The company joined the rank of major solar companies once it started the new 900MW “Kunitomi” production plant in Miyazaki. Solar Frontier manufactures CIS (copper, indium, selenium) thin-film solar modules for customers all around the world. The company has offices in Europe, the U.S.A., and the Middle East, with headquarters in Tokyo.

Kyocera is amongst the oldest Japanese vertically-integrated solar panel manufacturers. 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. in 1999. The company has production bases in Japan, Mexico, Europe and China and is planning a factory in California as well.

Japan’s share of global PV system revenue have shown an increase from  just 9% in 2011, to 14% in 2012 to 24% in 2013. Japan is a country where solar energy is flourishing because of its Government support through generous feed in subsidy. The Japanese are very particular about using their home brand. They also follow strict certification requirements, hence it will not be easy for the foreign players to enter the Japanese market. The Japanese market will also offer another market to the many suppliers who have exited the European markets, owing to the Anti-dumping proceedings there and reductions in FITs. As opposed to Europe the FITs in Japan are very attractive.
Read more about Japanese Solar Panels here.

Distinguishing Features between Solar Frontier and Kyocera Solar Panels

Solar Frontier modules have conversion efficiency of 11.8% to 13.4%. Their “Light soaking” effect increases the output after installation. They are Cadmium- and lead-free. Solar Frontier uses recyclable substances as packing material and are cardboard free. They use the CIS technology in module manufacturing. Kyocera  Solar uses high-performance solar cells, with efficiency of over 16%, for its solar module production.Classification of Solar Modules and Available Models

Solar Frontier Modules – can be conveniently used for residential, commercial and utility purposes. They manufacture thin film modules.

  • SF145-S – 145W
  • SF150-S – 150W
  • SF155-S – 155W
  • SF160-S – 160W
  • SF165-S – 165W

Kyocera Solar Modules – can be conveniently used for residential, commercial and utility purposes. Kyocera solar modules are all multicrystalline.

 1) F Series –
a) KD – 135-320 W
b) KD300-80 series – 315-320 W
c) KD200-60 series – 240-250 W
d) KD200-54 series – 215-220 W
e) KD100-36 series – 140 W

2) Off grid Series – KD100-36 FSX series – 140W.


Kyocera solar modules have a wattage range of 135- 320 W. Solar Frontier modules have a wattage range of 145- 165 W.


Kyocera solar panels wegh in between 12.9 kg and 27.5 kg. Solar Frontier modules have a standard weight of 20 kgs.


Kyocera solar panels come with black anodized frame. Solar Frontier modules also have a black anodized aluminium frame.

Standards and Certifications

Kyocera solar panels are NEC 2008 compliant, UL 1703 listed and IEC61215, ED2, IEC61730 certified by JET. Solar frontier modules have PTC/STC rating over 90% and are also UL, JET and RoHS compliant.


Solar Frontier  gives a 25 year extended warranty on all its solar panels. These Solar Panels are reinsured by the German insurance giant Munich Re, which means in case if Solar Frontier goes out of the solar panel business, Munich Re will insure that the warranty holds good. This is better than the standard warranty given by solar panel manufactures.

Kyocera solar panels have:

i) 10 years limited PV warranty on materials and workmanship,
ii) limited power output of 20 years (80%/ 90%) or
iii) 1/ 2 years limited PV modules warranty.

For more technical details read here: Solar Frontier and Kyocera solar panels.

SMA Solar is firing 700 workers from its nearly 4000 workforce, as the company tries to align costs to its falling revenue. The Solar InverterGerman solar inverter maker is the world’s largest producer and shipper of inverters for the global solar market. The company had a 40% market share just 2 years ago, thanks to the strength of its domestic German market. The company used to sell its inverters at a premium over others and managed high margins. SMA Solar was not affected by the gloom in the solar panel industry, as Asian companies did not have the technological expertise of SMA and other European makers. However, Chinese companies such as Sungrow have managed to improve their quality and reduce costs at the same time.

Read on GWI List of Major Solar Inverter Manufacturers.

We have predicted in the past that SMA Solar might face the prospect of other German solar companies as solar inverter ASPs go the solar panel way. The Chinese and other Asian companies have entered the fast growing $7 billion solar inverter market in a big way. They have also been helped, as China is set to overtake the saturated German market as the largest demand driver of solar panels. SMA Solar has been trying to curtail market share losses by buying a Chinese inverter company. However, its efforts have not been too successful as it continues to see a double whammy of lower revenues and lower ASPs.

SMA Solar needs to make a radical change in its strategy if it hopes to survive the change in the industry. I don’t think it will even manage to keep the current 3000 German workers. The company will need to outsource to other locations, otherwise it might face the fate of European telecom equipment makers.

Also Read on GWI Why Solar Inverter Top Dog SMA Solar is Losing Marketshare.


SMA Solar Technology AG (S92), the world’s biggest maker of inverters, said it will eliminate 700 full-time jobs in Germany by the end of 2014 as the photovoltaic market it supplies shrinks.

SMA Solar has begun talks with its works council to ensure the cutbacks are handled “in the most socially responsible way,” the Niestetal, Germany-based manufacturer said in a statement

“For the first time in many years, measured in euros, the global photovoltaic market will decline in 2013,” Chief Executive Officer Pierre-Pascal Urbon said in the statement. “As market leader, we will be especially affected by this,” he said, forecasting “an extended period of consolidation in the solar sector.”

Reliance Industries

Mukesh Ambani has been one of the biggest businessmen working for his consumers. Chairman of India’s largest private sector company, did it once again with Reliance Retail this time. The Company added a stunning 13 million loyal customers to its network of retail stores. The reliance stores see a footfall of over 2.5 million every week. Shocking isn’t it? Well the number is made realistic by the Reliance Retail Ltd.

Read more about Reliance Retail – Subsidiaries, Businesses & Financials.

 Ambani followed his passion of engaging millions since the formation of Reliance Infocomm to which he added over 11 million subscribers before Ambani brother partition.

Reliance Retail Ltd. saw new heights when its revenue reached INR 11,000 Crore registering a cash profit of Rs 78 crore. RRL, which is the subsidiary of parent organization Reliance Industries Ltd., is said to have a little fewer than 50 retail-business subsidiaries under it.

Significance of Retail Business to the entire Reliance Group

Retail business worth around $2 billion now plays a important role for the entire group worth around $68.4 billion. Over 60% of Reliance’s revenue comes from exports. Thus to invest in the high-growth domestic consumption-based market was reliance’s next bet which included both 4G broadband and retail sector.

Retail is already bearing fruits for the group while broadband launch is under testing mode.

If we take a quick sneak peek into RIL’s balance sheet, we find that the cash rich company having cash pile of over INR 80,000 crore generates almost 38% of its net profit from interest earned. The refining and petrochemical business of RIL adds to the cash pile every year, despite the business’s inability to grow.

Expectation from Retail Segment

Reliance’s retail business can benefit the company from India’s growth. Also it can bring in more profits from business operations, thereby reducing the share of interest income in the net profit. Improvement in operating profit will help the company use its cash bank for acquisition which will again help the company expand its network across India and worldwide.

Telecom business will be disruptive or the industry and to match the industry for retail, Reliance needs to catch up on industry leader Pantaloon Retail. 

Growth Strategies

The value format for the retail sector accounts for over 60% of total revenue generated saw least additions of only 10 stores. Company currently aims to focus on large stores of the format wholesale or cash-and-carry. Company also is not looking at opening any reliance fresh stores of the neighborhood format.

Company is currently focusing towards the growth of loyal programme. Loyalty programme is a key driver to LFL (Like-for-Like) growth which helped contributing over 65% to the company’s sales. It is expected that the loyal-programme shoppers tend to sped twice as much as other customers do.

Reliance Brands

As a part of third strategy the company plans to expand its presence by massive expansion of its smaller stores in other formats. The fashion and lifestyle format, Reliance Trends, saw the maximum number of new store launch at 95. Also the new stores addition when added with old stores sales gives the final figures in retail sector which has been impressive for Reliance trends. Reliance trends grew by 8% LFL, where as its digital format saw 17% LFL growth. Reliance Brands showed highest overall growth numbers at 82% with revenue touching 200 crore and LFL growth of 12%. Reliance brands forms joint venture with foreign brands is a luxury business. The Company also plans to go for private labels in order to minimize its dependency on the supply chain. Also private labels give higher margins and thus forms to be a logical step for RRL.

At last to conclude we can say that Reliance Industries has been loyal to its consumers and this time, the company is expected to reach new heights provided investment is made using its cash bank to expand the network.

China forces Foreign companies to set factories in China

China has done a fabulous job in forcing foreign companies to play by its rule in the past. The government there has allowed foreigners the access to its huge market, in return for setting up factories and research centers in the country. It has fostered firms who have managed to learn the technology and set up cheap manufacturing themselves. This has allowed China to become the biggest exporter in the world. India on the other hand, has a weak and government led by pygmies. The ruling party is ruled by a dynasty and the PM is a powerless bureaucrat with no power. The ministers are busy full time in lining their pockets and retaining political power with no time to think about the progress of the country.

There are periodic alarms about the huge quantum of equipment imports and how the country is totally depended on the outside countries for its basic needs. There are some reports made by highly paid consultants which gathers dust. The new semiconductor policy is a classic example of the Indian government’s incompetence over a long period of time. There is no vision and the attempts are half-hearted and useless. Same is the case with the telecom equipment and power equipment policies. India has a robust private sector with global leaders like Tata Motors, TCS etc. However, they have also been subverted by the system and are busy in gaming regulations rather than creating value (for most companies I think).

India should ask FSLR to set factories in India

First Solar (FSLR) is a US solar panel company that has made hay in India by exploiting a big loophole in India’s federal subsidy for solar energy. The
company sells thin film solar panels which are allowed to be imported by solar plant developers under India’s JNNSM. This has led FSLR to capture almost 80% of orders in India’s JNNSM built solar plants making a mockery of India’s efforts to promote domestic manufacturers. The company is now colluding with the US government to prevent India’s 2nd phase from closing this loophole. India is the only big market for FSLR outside of its own country, as it cannot compete in the Japanese and Chinese market. The FSLR CEO has realized this and is making a huge effort in growing its presence in the Indian market by tying up with the local players and making statements against India’s domestic content policy. The country has also abandoned a plan to set up a multi-million factory in India, as it does not think that the government will impose anti dumping duties against it. Let’s hope that the Indian bureaucrats and politicians can look beyond their own selfish interests and do the right thing.

However, I don’t think that they will rise to the occasion.