Untested batteries used for solar system of grant

KATHMANDU, Oct 2

batteryUntested batteries have been used in the solar system of grant with connivance of the Alternative Energy Promotion Center (AEPC), battery manufacturers and importers. Only the batteries certified by the Renewable Energy Test Station (RETS) have to be used in the solar system of grant.

The sellers are submitting forms to AEPC for grant amount using the untested batteries. Karobar has evidence that such forms are coming to the major distributors of solar equipment. The manufacturers and importers have to produce or import only three units of products and submit to RETS for Product Introductory Test (PIT). They are allowed to produce or import the equipment only after passing PIT. The equipment again have to pass the random sampling test where three units out of 100 produced or imported or 13 out of 1,000 are randomly selected for testing. The equipment can only be used in solar system of grant after passing these two tests. The companies that do not have permission for domestic solar system can sell solar system of grant in partnership with the companies that have been approved. Cooline Battery Industries sold 44,000 untested batteries in connivance with AEPC officials.

“I have started to sell batteries after manufacturers and AEPC officials assured me that it will not make any difference for grant amount. But these batteries are not RETS tested,” a businessman told Karobar requesting anonymity. Karobar has grant form for solar system sold by installing untested batteries. General Manager of RETS Prem Basnet asked this scribe to talk to technical manager Rudra Mani Pokharel stating that he does not have all the information when asked about the testing of Cooline batteries. Pokharel also claimed that he does not have comprehensive knowledge and advised to see RETS website for official data. The official data on RETS website shows that Cooline got its 35 ampere batteries tested only on September 3, 2010. It has recently got its 55 ampere batteries tested but the current dispute is about the use of 35 ampere batteries.

AEPC had brought new standards for solar batteries after implementing the Nepal Rural and Renewable Energy Program (NRREP). While Nepal Photovoltaic Quality Assurance (NEPQA) 2009 was implemented previously, AEPC decided to implement NEPQA 2013 from May 27. New 23 ampere high-quality batteries instead of previously used 35 ampere batteries have to be used as per the new standards. AEPC made the decision of verifying the old batteries verified by RETS before this program was implemented but stopped new import. Import of required goods for solar energy was totally stopped after this decision.  Cooline then claimed that it had stock of 44,000 batteries but its Managing Director Rajendra Bahadur Karki conceded with Karobar a few days ago that the company only had 25,000 batteries at that time. He had told that since 19,000 battery containers were already imported AEPC did stock verification even for those non-existent 19,000 batteries.  But a public notice issued by AEPC states that stock verification can be done for only those goods that have passed RETS testing. Cooline has continued production and sale of batteries even though it had got stock verification done for just 44,000 batteries including 19,000 that had not been produced. But these batteries have not been tested by RETS. Executive Director of AEPC Dr Govinda Raj Pokharel refused to come into contact despite our repeated attempts while MD of Cooline Karki said, “I know nothing and will not comment,” when asked about testing of the 44,000 batteries whose stock verification was done. Ram Prasad Dhital, who oversees solar component at AEPC, also asked this scribe to contact others for comment as he is not the spokesperson.

RETS had started testing of batteries, panels, charge controllers and LED lights in September, 2010. The goods have to be sold after getting certificate for quality based on the serial numbers put on the goods by the company concerned. The basis for grant in rural electrification and distribution management of the Renewable Energy Grant Mobilization Working Procedure has also clearly stated about grant. The point states that only the goods and equipment for domestic solar electricity system verified as per the standards and working procedures fixed by RETS can be sold and distributed. AEPC can fine and punish the companies that sell goods before being tested by RETS as per the monitoring and quality control directive, and delist the companies from the list of companies approved for domestic solar system. AEPC staffers state that there is little chance of action being taken as the AEPC staffers have connived right from the time of doing stock verification of non-existent batteries of Cooline.

Committee formed to find mole

The Solar Electric Manufacturers’ Association Nepal (SEMAN) has formed a secret investigation committee to find the source of information after a series of news reports about irregularities in solar system of grant with connivance of AEPC and entrepreneurs were published by Karobar. Patron of SEMAN and Chief of the Solar Electricity Company Yug Tamrakar, Binod Thapa of Lejarsan Solar, Dipen Raghubanshi of LS Solar and Gyanu Mahato of Scientific Solar are included in the committee.

A member revealed that the investigation committee was formed following pressure by AEPC Executive Director Pokharel. Member of the committee Tamrakar said that he was kept in the committee even though he was not present in the meeting held to form the committee and he has already retired from SEMAN.

Source : Karobar