A new plan to attract companies to set up battery storage manufacturing units in India could attract $6 billion in investments, reduce India’s oil import bill by as much as $34 billion and provide a massive boost to the electric vehicle sector.
Even as the Covid-19 pandemic rages, bringing economic activity to a halt in some pockets of the country, the Narendra Modi government is still being proactive when it comes to positioning India as a global manufacturing hub.
This week, the Indian Cabinet cleared a $2.5-billion production-linked incentive (PLI) scheme for making lithium-ion batteries in India under the National Programme on Advanced Chemistry Cell (ACC) Battery Storage Scheme.
The government is expecting more than $6 billion in investments under this scheme, which is expected to result in annual import substitution of about $2.7 billion and net savings of $34 billion on account of the reduction in the oil import bill as more consumers switch from hydrocarbons to batteries for their energy needs.
It will also give a massive push to the electric vehicle industry, which is still in its infancy in this country. The government has set a goal of 30 per cent electric vehicles by 2030. According to a report by the India Energy Storage Alliance (IESA), the Indian EV market will have volumes of more than 6.3 million units by 2027.
By then, the annual battery demand is expected to touch 50GWh, of which 80 per cent, or 40 GWh, will be lithium-ion batteries. In value terms, the battery market is likely to see exponential growth over this period, expanding from $580 million in 2019 to $14.9 billion by 2027, the report projects.
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The PLI scheme, part of an initiative to attract companies that looking to diversify their supply chains away from China, will dramatically reduce India’s import dependence on batteries, promote R&D in newer energy storage technologies and support the Prime Minister’s Atmanirbhar Bharat programme.
A government statement said the PLI scheme will help India build capacities for 50 GWh of ACC and 5 GWh of Niche ACC. The NITI Aayog website defines ACCs as new generation advanced storage technologies that can store electric energy either as electrochemical or as chemical energy and convert it back to electric. energy as and when required. Globally, manufacturers are investing in this new technology. The scheme will provide a massive boost to the Make in India scheme.
ACC battery manufacturers will be selected through a competitive bidding system, a government statement said. “The manufacturing facility will have to be commissioned within a period of two years. The incentive will be disbursed thereafter over a period of five years… Beneficiary firms have to achieve 25 per cent value addition and invest $30 million per GWh of capacity within two years and raise it to 60 per cent within five years,” the statement added.
The scheme will also greatly reduce India’s dependence on imports to fuel its EV ambitions. Right now, India imports most of its rechargeable batteries from China. This is ironical as India is self-sufficient in most of the raw materials such as aluminium, copper, electrolytes, and nickel – the key elements for batteries. Lithium, which gives the battery its name, forms a very small, albeit essential, part of the end product.
Much before the PLI scheme was announced, Vikram Handa, the son-in-law of billionaire steel tycoon Sajjan Jindal, announced an investment of more than $800 million in Epsilon Advanced Materials Pvt ltd, which will be India’s first manufacturer components for lithium-ion batteries, in August last year.
The plant will produce 100,000 tonnes of synthetic graphite anode by 2030, about 10 per cent of the global demand. These anodes, which make up 25 per cent of a cell’s components, are the negative electrode in li-ion batteries. At present, China has a near monopoly over this material and accounts for 80 per cent of global supplies.
Once it goes on stream, Handa’s plant will transform India from a battery minerals exporter to a major global battery materials centre that could, over time, even challenge China’s dominance in this field.
Once the PLI scheme takes off, this trend is expected to gather fresh momentum.