ACME Solar looks to diversify into electric vehicles, storage power systems

Gurugram-based ACME Solar, which has India’s highest solar power project capacity of 2GW in the pipeline, is looking to diversify into electric vehicles (EVs) and storage power systems. 

“We are in discussion with several global manufacturers of EVs. Initially, the plan is to set up an assembly unit. Our strength lies in battery swapping and we would focus on that model when we enter the EV segment,” Shashi Shekhar, vice-chairman of ACME, told Business Standard. 

The company, which planned an initial public offer but put it on hold, is also looking at solar-plus-storage power projects. The cost of storage currently is Rs 9 per unit. Shekhar, however, said the market was expecting the cost to come down by 2022-23 to Rs 5 per unit. 

ACME, the first company to bid sub-Rs 3 tariff last year in an NTPC tender by quoting Rs 2.59 per unit, plans to go ahead with implementation of its Badla and Rewa solar park projects despite the levy of safeguard duty. 

“We have requested the ministry of new and renewable energy, ministry of finance, and state governments to allow grandfathering of older contracts and give upfront exemption of custom duty under Section 25 of the Customs Act, as tariff escalation due to safeguard duty will be a prolonged and complicated affair,” said Shekhar. 

ACME had panels at ports and it got most of them discharged after payment of a levy in lieu of the impending safeguard duty. Shekhar, however, said if the tariff was high, utilities would not be keen to consider solar power, which was quite evident from cancellation of recent bids by Gujarat, Uttar Pradesh non-conventional energy development agency, SECI UP, and SECI 3,000 Mw where only the lowest bidder got the letter of intent. 

ACME recently won 600 Mw of solar project offered by SECI at a tariff of Rs 2.44 per unit. SECI is the nodal agency under the ministry of new and renewable energy to award renewable projects. 

Of its total portfolio of 5.5 gigawatt, 2 gigawatt is commissioned and 455 Mw is under construction. The upcoming projects include solar parks in Rajasthan (200 Mw), Rewa in Madhya Pradesh (150 Mw) and Karnataka (105 Mw). 

Shekhar said despite the imposition of safeguard duty, the tariff was expected to go down. “Panel costs are coming down globally. We might see it falling to 18-20 cents per kWh against 30 cents/kWh currently. The tariff might go down to Rs 2 per unit,” he said. Safeguard duty recently imposed on imported solar cells and modules is expected to increase the cost of power projects by 50-60 paisa. ACME will move regulator for revising tariff for its under construction projects.

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