Vikram Solar, an Indian PV module manufacturer, has achieved tier 1 status in the eyes of Bloomberg New Energy Finance (BNEF). The company, which has been producing panels since 2006, is among the first Indian panel manufacturers to start making a name for itself abroad.
According to Gyanesh Chaudhary, Vikram Solar’s managing director, there are still many module manufacturers in spite of the dramatic global solar market consolidation that has taken place in the last 2 years. This has made it difficult for clients to feel confident in choosing a brand. He believes Vikram Solar’s new status will enhance the company’s standing among wholesalers and installers who are looking for suppliers of dependable solar modules.
BNEF considers the numerous trade disputes facing China (mainly from the EU and USA), and the associated increase in module prices there a bonus for emerging solar module manufacturers in countries such as India. Under these circumstances, more manufacturers from developing countries such as India stand a better chance of getting a share of the market that has for the past few years been dominated by China.
BNEF’s tiering system (PDF) is just one organisation’s approach to bringing transparency to a market saturated with companies competing to stand out, and other companies and organisations set their criteria differently.
As BNEF is specialises in financial analysis, its criteria for attaining tier one status are structured around the finance history of the companies in question: a company must have developed at least three projects in the last 2 years, with funding provided through 3 separate non-development banks–and BNEF must have kept records of them.
The purpose of a tiering system is to act as a kind of shorthand for overall ‘bankability’ of the of companies and their products, but to say that a manufacturer is tier 1 is not to say that it is invincible; as BNEF notes, “This classification system is purely a measure of industry acceptance, and there are many documented examples of quality issues or bankruptcy of tier 1 manufacturers.” Under BNEF’S criteria, tier 1 manufacturers who have filed for bankruptcy can be ‘sandboxed’ as tier 3 until their financial status improves.
US-based Pike Research (now Navigant Research) is among the other organisations that have developed their own set of criteria for tier rankings. Australia’s own Solar Business Services, noting the discernible lack of differentiating factors between many of those manufacturers customarily referred to as ‘tier 1’, has also developed a ranking system.
Top image: 170kW industrial solar installation, via Vikram Solar.
© 2014 Solar Choice Pty Ltd