Will protect local solar firms ‘come what may’

Debabrata Das Richa Mishra New Delhi | Updated on January 20, 2018

Power Minister Piyush Goyal

India on strong wicket at WTO in row with US, says Piyush Goyal

Piyush Goyal, Minister of State (Independent Charge) for New & Renewable Energy, Power and Coal, is confident that India is on a “strong footing” as it defends its solar programme at the World Trade Organization.

Goyal’s confidence stems from the fact that even the US, which had challenged India’s programme of mandating domestic content, has 16 domestic content procurement requirements in place in various states.

Earlier this year, the WTO’s dispute settlement panel ruled that the domestic content requirement in India’s Jawaharlal Nehru National Solar Mission flouted multilateral trade rules as it discriminated against foreign manufacturers. This was on the basis of a case filed by the US against India three years ago, which India is contesting.

“We are on a strong footing. I stand committed to ensure that domestic manufacturers are protected come what may. I want to reassure Indian manufacturers that domestic production will be protected,” he told BusinessLine.

Goyal, who has been very vocal against the US’ move, has been maintaining that that the Americans have taken a very myopic view of the domestic content requirements.

Alternative plan

However, if things go against India, Goyal has a Plan B in place. “I have my back-up plans on how to support them (domestic firms) irrespective of the outcome at the WTO,” he said, without elaborating.

The Plan B may show procurement is for government use through public sector agencies. India has been arguing that since the power generated through the Mission was bought by state-owned NTPC, the transaction qualifies as government procurement and is not covered by WTO rules. Defence procurement is another option.

While the National Solar Mission aims to add 100,000 MW of solar power by 2022, the local content requirement is only for 8,000 MW for rooftop and land-based projects, where the government provides a subsidy.

Of the total installed capacity of around 6,000 MW of solar energy in the country, only 400 MW has been supplied by Indian manufacturers.

Published on May 06, 2016

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