‘It is a tiny proportion of all solar projects developed in India’

The World Trade Organisation dispute on India’s National Solar Mission (NSM) that U.S. Trade Representative Michael Froman raked up on Monday pertains to contracts for 375 MWs, a miniscule proportion of the total solar generation capacity being bid out nationwide.

“The USTR is crying foul over NSM Phase-II, in which of the total 750 MWs on bid, half is open to global solar power developers, including Americans,” highly placed government sources told The Hindu. “The balance 375 MWs is reserved for domestic players, and that is what the USTR is threatening action over.”

The sources said this batch of 375 MWs would be defended at the WTO as it was a permissible “government procurement scheme” and it addressed India’s energy security concerns. “In any case, it is a tiny proportion of all the solar power projects being bid out and developed in India.”

U.S. developers had “dominated” NSM Phase-I with U.S. Exim Bank-tied funds, the sources said.

India’s total solar power installed capacity is 2,000 MWs, up from 2 MW three years ago. At the next NSM meeting scheduled for February 26, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh is expected to approve a goal of 100,000 MWs for 2022. “The USTR is trying to rake up issues at this stage though it has no case at the moment to create space for its industry in India’s big-potential solar market,” the sources said. “It is also possible they had provocation on some other political or policy front, and this was an easy issue.”

A year ago, the U.S. initiated WTO dispute consultations on NSM Phase I. “India has already presented its case, but the U.S. is yet to seek a panel on it, as required by the process,” the sources said.

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