In order to boost growth, renewable power company Hero Future Energies (HFE), part of the Hero Group, aims to tap foreign markets such as Africa. The firm remains bullish on the prospects of solar and wind energy and is looking to be a leader in storage solutions for off-grid renewable power. It has a total installed capacity of 260 MW right now and by May 2016 it is expected to reach 500 MW. Founder and managing director Rahul Munjal and chief executive Sunil Jain shared their future plans in an interview. Edited excerpts:
What are the new areas of future energy that HFE is working on?
Munjal: It is not about new technologies (at present). In the long run, there is, of course, going to be many technologies. There is going to be batteries, offshore wind, other storage solutions. There is going to be lots of new technologies in coming times but if you talk about what is happening today, then there is lot of technological improvements in wind and solar.
Which new technologies are you planning to bring to India?
Munjal: We have already started using bifacial solar panels (which have solar cells on both sides). We are continuously looking at storage solutions. So, sooner than later, we should have something. We will be able to replace people’s gensets (power generators) at house. We will give solar on the rooftop along with storage solutions.
Jain: The key discussion point is storage. I strongly believe there would be some sort of a carbon tax on people using gensets as we move forward. It is already there on large-scale producers; so individuals also may end up paying because you are anyways polluting.
Munjal: I think we would be pioneers in storage for sure. We are doing lots of work on it—both on grid-connected as well as rooftop. Storage is going to help with grid problems. The other area that we are looking at is constantly improving quality of wind turbines.
Are you planning to go 50-50 mix of wind and solar, or are you looking to increase the share of solar in your portfolio as the government has increased its solar power target to 100,000MW by 2022?
Munjal: We are opportunity-based. We will go wherever we can add more value and wherever we can make more difference; wind or solar—for us, both are exactly the same. We would like to do both, 50-50.
What are your plans for rooftop solar, which is a major thrust area? What is your overall target for this fiscal year?
Jain: Last year, we did 2.46MW, this year so far we have done 5.4MW, and another 8MW is under execution.
Munjal: One of the largest solar rooftops in India is done by us. Of the whole country’s target for rooftop (around 200MW), we should do something around 7-10% this year, and go up to 10% in a year after that. Overall, we are going to do 300MW this year—wind and solar. If you include rooftop, it will be 320MW. The other reason why we need to do a lot of rooftop is because of the grid. No matter what you say, the grid will not be able to take in the new 175 gigawatts (of renewable power) that is going to come in.
Government has recently come out with an offshore wind policy. Are you looking at participating?
Munjal: We are following it very closely, but so far, we have not made any decision on investing. We are waiting for a few things to happen. There are some more clarities that government has to come out with. There are too many permissions need for an offshore project, which takes a lot of time, and right now, it is not very commercially viable. Clarity from Coast Guard and environment authorities also need to come in.
Jain: There are 36 clearances we need for offshore. We would love to look at new technologies, but India has enough onshore wind power. Declared potential is over 100,000MW, of which you have installed only 25,000MW. Discoms don’t want to buy even Rs.6 per unit power and you are expecting them to buy at over Rs.12 and maybe more.
Munjal: So, commercial viability is extremely important.
Are you also looking at participating in the government’s smart city programme?
Munjal: Absolutely. We will discuss at the right time. Smart cities cannot be without solar and smart grid. We are happy to be a player in both.
What is your plan for the company by 2019?
Munjal: We will go to 2GW by 2019; today we are a 500MW company. Our journey has been very, very exciting. We say very proudly we came into this market in pre-Modi era. We didn’t come here because of the buzz. Our plans, compared to what we had three years back, have doubled today. So far, it has been a great run; we have been growing very, very rapidly. We have been able to deliver and prove ourselves and we command a fairly good position in the market.
So far, we have been growing at much more than 100% every year. I think that is going to taper down a little bit but we are still going to grow extremely rapidly.
But you doubled your target because of the Modi government increasing India’s solar power target by 2022?
Munjal: Our plans have doubled because of Modi-era. Hamare acche din to aa gaye(our good days have come).
Are you looking to expand abroad?
Munjal: We are anyways going to go abroad—Africa and other places. That is purely because a part of world were early adopters of renewable, while India was somewhere in the middle and lot of countries in the world are still on fringes and just opening up. Suddenly, renewable is very exciting business and boundaries don’t matter. We are very convinced we have to be a global player. A part of our business has to come from the international markets like Asia.
Source: HT Mint