New Delhi: The government is under pressure to bar Chinese firms from participating in contracts in the sensitive power sector, especially digital products which are prone to malware threats.
India imports Chinese equipment in the power sector. In 2018-19, the total imports in the power sector were to the tune of Rs 71,000 crore, of which imports from China stood at over Rs 20,000 crore.
In the renewable energy segment, imports stood at $2.9 billion in FY19, with close to 70% of it from China.
“The power sector being strategic and essential in nature is vulnerable to cyber attacks. Therefore, imported equipment will be subjected to testing to check the influx of malwares like Trojan etc,” said an official, adding it should be “our endeavour to promote manufacturing of power infrastructure equipment within the country”.
Global bidding has already been barred for public procurement of up to Rs 200 crore, and more specific restrictions may be imposed on use of Chinese gear in the critical power sector, said sources.
There is pressure on the government to put a blanket ban on use of sensitive digital equipment from China by the power sector, though a formal decision is yet to be taken.
The Centre is already planning a policy shift which will incentivise domestic manufacturing while putting restrictions on all imports where local capacities exist.
Union Power Minister R.K. Singh recently said a mega manufacturing programme is being launched to incentivise a phased manufacturing plan through investments, while scaling up existing manufacturing capacities.
“There is no need to go for imports of things available in the domestic market. We want to build Atmanirbhar Bharat, so power project developers using local equipment will get encouragement by way of lower interest on loans from state funding agencies compared to those who rely on imports,” Singh said after a meeting with state energy ministers.
In order to discourage imports of solar equipment, the Power Ministry has already proposed a 20-25 % basic customs duty on solar module imports for the current year, which will go up to 40% in the next year. Also, the duty on solar cells has been proposed at a lower 15% for the first year and a higher 30-40% in the next year. Already, solar imports attract 15% safeguard duty.
The Ministry, sources said, has suggested that stringent quality standards for imports of all kinds of power equipment be fixed and sub-standard products be rejected and suppliers blacklisted.
Imported equipment should be tested in Indian laboratories as per Indian standards and also to see presence of any malware.