Sustainability is emerging as a major motivator for cement manufacturers
Sustainability is emerging as a major motivator for cement manufacturers

Sustainability is emerging as a major motivator for cement manufacturers

- Manu Karan, Vice President, CleanMax

Will you please introduce your company to our readers?
CleanMax is the sustainability partner of choice for leading corporates and institutions in Asia. Our cumulative operating solar power capacity is over 575+MW across rooftop projects and opens access solar farms across India. We will be expanding our solar farms across multiple States in India by mid - 2020. We aim to achieve a cumulative installed capacity of over 2 GW by 2022 across geographies.

CleanMax has over 200 employees spread across projects, business development, finance and operations to cover all spectrum of the business. Head quartered out of Mumbai, we have seven offices across India, UAE and Thailand. Currently, in UAE, we have a project portfolio of over 25 MW and expanding our footprint in Thailand rapidly. Our track record with India's top companies has made CleanMax a preferred partner for commercial and Industrial (C&I) across sectors, namely cement, manufacturing, food and beverages, automotive, pharmaceuticals, information technology, Education amongst others.

What has been the response in general from the cement industry to renewable power?
India is the second largest cement producer in the world and the demand for cement is further only expected to grow by multitudes due to demand in key sectors such as construction, infrastructure, real estate, etc.

The Indian cement industry is recognised globally as one of the most energy efficient in the world, with relatively large production units and the use of low-carbon, cost-effective technologies. The sector will still need to make significant efforts to achieve its carbon footprint reduction objectives. India's cement industry has demonstrated its willingness to invest and reduce CO2 emissions and achieve a low-carbon future. The renowned cement company, ACC is one of our esteemed clients drawing per annum approximately 15 million solar electricity units from our solar farms and is reducing their carbon print significantly by abating around 14,400 tonnes of CO2 annually which is equivalent to planting 2,16,007 trees or getting 2,774 cars off the road.

How does the solar farm business operate?
Solar farms are large scale installations where photovoltaic panels, referred to as solar panels are used to harvest the power of the sun. The Solar farm business is operated in open access models, where the generated power from an offsite location is wheeled into the Cement producer's facility by paying small charges to the grid operator Most corporates are making a stronger push towards going green, also sourcing solar power is the best way for them to reduce their carbon footprint. Environmentally conscious corporates are also adopting sustainable practices to fulfill their RE100 obligations. These companies are buying solar electricity through private solar farms to hedge their energy costs at the current prices for future use which is potentially 20 to 25 years. Including the servicing and maintenance costs of the plant over the years, the costs are negligible as compared to buying power from the grid. Most importantly, using solar power also demonstrates the sustainability commitment of the company.

Wheeling power from an "offsite" solar farm through the grid allows consumers to move the majority of their power requirement to renewables. The modalities vary from state to state, as regulations differ. But in nearly all large industrial states, CleanMax is now offering these solutions from a solar farm project within the state. In most cases, this requires a "group captive" legal structure, with some shareholding from the consumer. But there is now clarity on how regulations will treat these projects, and it is a great option for consumers to move the majority of their power consumption over to renewable energy.

While building a solar farm points to be kept in mind:
As a developer of solar farms, India is blessed with abundant sunlight which makes it ideal to adoption of Solar. Clear land without any shadows is of paramount importance. Demand from the local consumers, industries and easy grid connectivity are key factors which will determine the size of the farm, the equipment and the investments required.

Depending on the State where the farm is planned, the solar policy of the State, incentives if any, transmission and infrastructure charges throughout the life cycle; are factors to be considered during the planning stages. Accessible roads and/or the need to be constructed as part of the project will impact the costs of the farm. The financing of the project needs to be secured which could be equity or debt and this could vary from client to client depending on their respective requirements.

Adhering to safety standard and following security protocols are pertinent too. The project technicians should conform to all safety precautions at all times while installing or maintaining solar power plants. CleanMax prioritises the safety of people as well as the system; hence we carry out a Job Safety Analysis (JSA) before every project. This is important to pinpoint potential safety hazards and address them accordingly. As the solar power plant installations are at ground level, there is a possibility of accidental human contact; hence the area needs to be well isolated. Also, adequate and appropriate safety gear and processes adhered to is of crucial importance during maintenance activities.

Can you elaborate on remote monitoring and operation & maintenance? What kind of IT infrastructure you have deployed?
Operation and maintenance (O&M) is one of the most critical ways to ensure that the solar farm operates most optimally throughout its life-cycle. At CleanMax, we work to maintain the solar farm infrastructure and equipment, with the goal of improving the equipment's life by preventing excess depreciation and impairment.

The O&M of solar farm requires periodic checks for ensuring optimal performance and security. All our solar farms are connected via SCADA (Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition Systems) and this is monitored at our central location across various parameters that measure the performance within a defined parameter. Any anomaly triggers an alarm that is relayed to ground staff to ensure a physical verification to prevent damage and rectify any errors as the case might be.

What are the main drivers for the cement industry to adopt solar energy? Some typical examples you would like to quote from the cement industry.
Sustainability is emerging as a major motivator for cement manufacturers. More and more corporates in India and around the world are making public pledges to source their power from renewable sources, such as through RE100. Equally important, they are making concrete plans to achieve these goals. Amongst the many options available, zero-investment renewable energy is a straightforward way for manufacturers to make meaningful progress towards sustainability goals in a single action method and without disruption to their operations.

For most companies, cost reduction is the most important factor to adopt solar power as the cement industry is a high guzzler of power. Across India, solar power provides electricity tariffs that are 30 to 50 per cent lower than the prevailing grid electricity tariffs for a rooftop or onsite solar farms. Solar farms can also provide large volumes of renewable power through the grid, in an open access or group captive basis, in most large states in India, also at a discount to grid electricity tariffs. All of this is possible with much any investment from the consumers' end, which is a very attractive proposition.

Secondly, CleanMax's innovative OPEX Model allows companies with healthy credit ratings to buy solar power without any capital expenditure and in a hassle-free manner. Thus, making it the most logical and reliable option of energy.

How can CleanMax help manufacturing units to reduce dependence on the grid without any investment?
At CleanMax, our mission has always been to help corporates achieve their sustainability targets while also saving cost. We offer manufacturers a way to reduce their power costs by 30 to 50 per cent (depending on the state), with zero or minimal investment through solar solutions.

We also take seriously the need to help clients get to their 100 per cent renewable goals. Rooftop solar plants are possible anywhere in India and are very cost effective, but they typically meet less than 15 to 20 per cent of a factory's power consumption, and often much less. To source the majority of their consumption from renewables, consumers need to get power from solar farms through the grid, via open access or group captive power procurement models.

To service this need, CleanMax has expanded its large-scale offerings to almost all major states - if a manufacturer has factories in different states in India, chances are we can provide grid-connected renewable energy in most of those. The only states where we don't provide open access power are those which don't permit it at all. We are successfully providing approximately 17 million units of solar electricity annually to leading cement companies across different locations in India through our open access solar farms and rooftop solar projects, which means abating around 15,840 tonne CO2 per annum, equivalent to planting 2,37,608 trees or taking off 3,051 vehicles off the road.

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