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With a $771 million acquisition, RIL gets closer to building a gigantic solar cell factory in India

REUTERS/Denis Balibouse
Nothing can stop him.
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Mukesh Ambani, one of the world’s richest persons with $100.6 billion in net worth, has been busy shaking up India’s clean energy space. On Sunday (Oct. 11), his Reliance Industries (RIL) announced the acquisition of two “green” firms.

First was the $771 million (Rs5,129 crore) acquisition of Norway-based REC Solar, which makes solar-grade polysilicon and solar panels and modules. The 25-year old firm, with over 1,300 employees globally, will help RIL fulfil its ambition of building a massive gigantic solar cell factory in India, something Ambani announced in June.

“The agreement is in line with Reliance’s strategy of investing in operating capabilities aimed at achieving Reliance’s goal of enabling 100 GW clean and green energy before the end of this decade,” Ambani said in a press release yesterday announcing the acquisition. “Reliance is now ready to set up a global scale integrated photovoltaic giga factory and make India a manufacturing hub for the lowest cost and highest efficiency solar panels.”

Later in the day, RIL announced acquiring a 40% stake in Sterling & Wilson Solar, which has a presence in 24 countries and has installed 11 GW of solar power projects.

All this is part of RIL’s goal to go green. “In fiscal 2021, Reliance generated about 45 million tons of carbon dioxide emissions from its own operations, which puts the company among the top such emitters in India,” Business Standard reported in August.

Reliance’s green ambitions

With these new buys, RIL’s four-month-old renewable energy arm, Reliance New Energy Solar (RNEL), has already become a key player in India’s solar energy sector. In August, it invested in US-based battery storage firm Ambri (pdf).

The deals follow Ambani’s foray into the space in June with the setting up of the Dhirubhai Ambani Green Energy Giga Complex on 5,000 acres in Gujarat’s Jamnagar.

“It will be among the largest such integrated renewable energy manufacturing facilities in the world,” Ambani had said then.

The company aims to set up four giga factories with an initial investment of $10 billion: an integrated solar photovoltaic plant, an advanced energy storage battery manufacturing unit, a factory to convert hydrogen into mobile and stationary power, and a fuel-cell facility.

Ambani’s plans are in line with Modi’s vision

Going by Ambani’s plan, RIL’s green energy target alone will account for a fifth of India’s “new energy” target for 2030—set at 450 GW by prime minister Narendra Modi in 2020.

India is now heavily dependent on coal but the country seems confident of achieving its ambitious goal of net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by the end of the decade.

Lending his support to Modi’s call for self-reliance, Ambani had, in June, said: “All our products will proudly proclaim made in India, by India, for India, and for the world.”

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