The release of the public procurement notice by the Department of Industrial Policy and Promotion (DIPP) in June 2017 would have been lost amidst the uncertainty of the Goods and Services Tax (GST) rollout in India. The clean-tech sector in turn was disappointed with GST as most components were slotted in a higher tax slab. Subsequent clarifications did bring relief, but the solar sector went through another round of uncertainty with the hearing of the anti-dumping case filed by Indian manufacturers. In between all this, NLC India limited closed one solar project bid and scrapped another one. The tender for 709MW of solar projects saw the inclusion of DIPP’s local content clause for the first time in a Renewable Energy (RE) project. However, it was not raised as there was no scope for bidder to match the lowest bid (L1) and add 50% of project value in India. The second tender, for energy storage with solar PV plant was scrapped and retendered this year and as it stands, it will witness the clause being leveraged to win a project in the clean-tech sector for the first time.
Key points from the public procurement policy under Make in India
- Local supplier is one who guarantees to offer minimum 50% local value add (in terms of total project value) to the project.
- Among the qualified bidders, if Lowest bidder (L1) is from a local supplier, contract shall be awarded to him.
- If L1 is not from a local supplier, L2 shall be given a chance to match L1 if he is a local supplier.
- The difference in price of L1 and L2 has to be within 20%.
- If L2 fails to match L1, subsequent bidders would be given an option to match L1 if they remain within 20% higher than L1.
The NLC energy storage project
The energy storage project is for a 20MW PV plant to be developed in Andaman and Nicobar islands. The battery capacity is 8MWh (16MW) which is lower than the 28MWh tendered in the previous round last year. As summarised in this article by PV tech, the bidders at the end of reverse auction were as below.
L1 : Mahindra Susten (1,327,938,040 INR) / ($ ~20.291m)
L2 : Pennar (1,337,938,040 INR) / ($~20.44m)
L3 : Larsen and Toubro (L&T) (1,377,938,040 INR) / ($~21.055m)
L4 : Hero Solar Energy (1,407,938,040 INR) / ( $ ~21.513m)
L5 : Bharat Heavy Electricals Limited (BHEL) ( 1,487,938,040 INR) / ($~22.736m)
The bid is currently being evaluated as both Larsen and Toubro (L&T) and BHEL have both opted to meet the local content requirement of the tender and are well within the +20% price margin from the L1 bidder, Mahindra Susten. In all likelihood one of them would win the contract with a high probability of L&T staking claim to the bid. However, I must confess there are other bid criteria which L&T has to fulfill if it has bag this award under the Make in India directive. Under the current market dynamics and the appetite of developers, I personally don’t see why L&T wouldn’t want to take risks and bag the project.
Is the clause a big boost to local manufacturing in India for RE systems?
It’s still early days to evaluate the impact of the clause in other sectors but if L&T manages to win and execute the NLC energy storage project it will be a big boost for domestic manufacturing in the Indian clean-tech sector. Providing impetus to Indian solar manufacturing through Domestic Content Requirement (DCR) in solar bids dint do much in addition to getting into a tangle with WTO for international trade compliance in the pact. If the NLC bid goes to the L1 bidder, the battery system would be completely shipped in containers to the site in addition to importing solar modules. On the contrast if L&T manages to bag the bid under domestic content requirement it would be importing only battery cells and doing the assembly and complete system integration in India. Lithium battery pack assembly is currently happening in India but on a small scale for telecom towers and other back-up applications. If the 8MWh battery system is assembled in India, it would be one of the largest lithium based battery system assembled in India at the moment. For a sector that has been warning against a repeat of battery imports from China (just like solar PV modules); raising issues related to high GST (28%) and no impetus for local manufacturing completing this procurement through a significant value add in India will go a long way before India sees Giga factories for batteries being built.
So, all in all, public procurement agencies in the clean-tech space can definitely learn something from how the NLC bid has unfolded. The make in India policy clause formulated by DIPP can indeed create traction towards local manufacturing. It shouldn’t take long before other state agencies and central agencies like SECI and EESL incorporate this clause in upcoming tenders.
The DIPP’s note on public procurement can be found here.
Images courtesy: juwi