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Solar power push for Indian villages

SHORTAGES in India’s energy market and demand for alternative energy sources has created a niche opportunity for a WA-based solar energy company.

Prime Solar, the brainchild of renewable energy specialist Dr Dilawar Singh, is poised to enter the India energy market with significant backing from the Indian Government and several international investors.

Dr Singh said that, while India manufactures solar cells and solar modules, it did not manufacture wafers – the base material required to create solar cells and modules. Instead, India imports wafers at a cost of $100 million a year.

“Our company, Prime Solar Limited, is looking to fill that gap of importing wafers by producing them locally,” he said.

Prime Solar was established by Dr Singh in 2001 and is currently in the process of capital raising.

Dr Singh said Prime Solar had obtained expressions of interest (EOI) from Australian, Indian and US solar companies to supply the company with 100 per cent of required wafers and solar cells to be produced at its manufacturing facility.

Dr Singh said the company was planning to commence construction of the facility in India by late 2004 at a total project cost of $US25 million.

The company has a loan commitment for $US20 million from the Indian Renewable Energy Development Agency. This loan would attract a 6.5 per cent interest subsidy from the Ministry of Non-Conventional Energy Sources, Dr Singh said.

He said the company was now looking for Australian investors for the project.

Dr Singh, who is also the Australia-India Chamber of Commerce (WA) president, said 18,000 rural villages in India could not access conventional energy. The Indian Government, therefore, must consider alternative sources, and solar energy was one of these.

He said there were plans to provide 18,000 villages with solar power during the next 10 years.

“They [India] lag behind in developing the power sector and they are experiencing an acute shortage in some areas and will not overcome that problem for the next 10-15 years,” Dr Singh told WA Business News.

“The reason is that they don’t have enough financial resources and they are dependent on the import of good quality coal.

“India has 70 per cent of its population living in rural areas and even after 55 years of independence they are lacking good power sources, good quality drinking water and adequate health care, and all these things are linked with the power sector.

“The Indian Government has formed the ‘Ministry for Non-Conventional Energy Sources’ to promote solar energy in the country.

“India has got very effective policies for solar energy industry, including tax holidays for 10 years.

“There is no sales or excise duty on solar energy products.

“Also, getting finance for the project is easier in India than in Australia.

“The ministry has set up a bank for providing soft finance for renewable energy projects, which is known as the Indian Renewable Energy Development Agency.”

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