In an attempt to ensure longevity of solar power projects and, perhaps, take greater control of the equipment used, India has issued draft rules for quality standards of solar modules and inverters.

The Ministry of New and Renewable Energy recently released the draft rules, which have also been communicated to members of the World Trade Organization. The draft outline the obligations of the module and inverter manufacturers and the specific quality standards for various types of modules.

This draft could not have come at a better time. Solar power bids are at record lows with growing concerns over the quality of solar modules being used by project developers who quote record low bids I’m every new tender.

Solar power bids in India collapsed by 26% in a matter of three months in conjugation with the steep fall in module prices. Yet, many are not convinced if falling module prices and cheaper funding justify the never-seen-before bids.

A big reason for the collapse in bid prices, according to industry sources is the jump in imports from China. In addition to modules, inverters and other equipment are being imported from China in massive volumes. The thermal power equipment manufacturers in India have voiced their concerns about the predatory prices and poor quality of Chinese imports on several occasions. Same concerns are now being raised about solar imports.

Setting standards for solar power equipment could also help Indian manufacturers expand their presence in the Indian market. Indian module manufacturers have been left behind in the race to low solar power bids as they are unable to match the Chinese prices. Perhaps, through the introduction of quality standards the Indian government would be able to provide an indirect support to these companies.

India decided not to levy import duties on imported modules, a common practice in Europe, the US and China. It, instead, pushed for mandatory use of Indian-made modules for some projects. This strategy took a hit when the US secured a judgement from the WTO against it last year.

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