Interview with Jinko Solar’s Donald Leo

MD, Asia South, Jinko Solar

“India is a key upcoming market”

The solar power segment is facing new challenges with the possible levy of 25 per cent safeguard duty on imported solar cells. The step is likely to increase project costs, which may lead to a setback in achieving the 100 GW target on time. In an interview with Renewable Watch, Donald Leo, managing director, Asia South, Jinko Solar, shares his perspective on the likely impact of this levy, and Jinko’s plans to increase its market share in India…

What is the company’s current scale of operations and what are its key offerings in India?

Jinko Solar is a leader in the solar module manufacturing industry, having shipped 9.8 GW of modules in 2017. The company has witnessed a strong year-on-year growth over the past 12 years. Currently, we have over 12,000 employees across eight production facilities spread globally, and 16 overseas subsidiaries. Jinko’s most premium product is the Cheetah Series module, which can go up to the rating of 400 W. In India, Jinko offers the Eagle Series in both monocrystalline and polycrystalline variants. This product line is suitable for the country’s humid climate and ensures a high return on investment.

In which countries does the company have its manufacturing facilities? 

Jinko Solar has set up manufacturing units in strategic locations such as the US, China, Malaysia and Europe. These factories offer the latest module technology as well as high capacity run rates.

How much share does India account for in the company’s total global revenues?

In 2017, Jinko accounted for 6.2 per cent market share in India alone. The company is confident of maintaining or exceeding this figure in the coming years, as India is a key upcoming market for module suppliers, in terms of shipment quantity. In terms of revenue, due to the reverse auction regime in the country’s solar industry, prices are being driven downwards. Hence, the company anticipates that the revenue per module sale in India may not be as significant as compared to that in the US, Europe and Japan.

What are the key challenges in the Indian solar market?

India crossed the 20 GW installed solar capacity benchmark in 2017 and is marching fast towards its 100 GW goal. However, there are certain roadblocks that need attention for the industry to maintain a high pace of growth. In 2017, low tariffs and the roll-out of the goods and services tax were the primary concerns. Today, the segment faces a key challenge pertaining to the implementation of 25 per cent safeguard duty amidst talks of anti-dumping duty as well, which is slowing down the market growth. Pricing is another factor that demands rectification to improve project returns. Developers continue to make aggressive bids on the presumption that module costs will decline further, while the government lauds low tariffs. This may not be the case going forward. Thus, the strategy for bid designing needs an overhaul.

How will the proposed duty, if implemented, impact manufacturers including Jinko?

Any trade barrier is bound to slow down the pace of solar installations. In my opinion, imposition of the safeguard duty will hamper the stable industry growth. It will increase project costs, which, in turn, will impact the end consumers. So far, Jinko has seen a steady market growth in the country. Most developers would have a pass through clause for their current power purchase agreements, and thus, the duty is not expected to have a major impact on module sales due to Jinko’s strong brand positioning.

Is the company planning to set up a manufacturing unit in India?

Jinko has enough production capacity to service module demand in large quantities. However, we are open and optimistic about engaging in manufacturing discussions with our partners and customers in India.

How does Jinko plan to tap the rooftop solar segment in the country?

India’s rooftop solar market is very promising. Jinko is definitely looking to target the rooftop market with its product offerings that are especially suited for rooftop installations. We have large warehouses in Gurugram and Mumbai, from where we have been supplying all types of modules. For local distribution, Jinko is exploring partnerships with many dealers. However, the company has to consider certain crucial parameters that need to fit the bill before the distributorship can be granted.

What are the company’s future plans in India?

Jinko is firmly committed to India’s solar market and will play a crucial role towards meeting the module requirements of the country. So far, the company has supplied over 1.5 GW worth of modules in the country and is racing towards the 3 GW capacity target by next year. With a full-fledged team based out of New Delhi and Mumbai, Jinko aims to support its clients for pre- and post-sales service.

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