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Rooftop solar which is the fastest growing renewable energy sub-
sector in India, grew at an estimated CAGR of 83% in the last three years. Despite this strong growth, India has achieved only 10 percent of its 40 GW RTS target by 2022 and contributes ~ 1% of total power output of the country. Ambitious target in RTS are likely to be met provided the drivers are put in place. Policy certainty for new and existing RTS projects, financial support, adopting latest technologies and increased consumer awareness will accelerate the pace of RTS installations in India.
Reality is Indian states are turning their backs on rooftop solar. Sadly, central government
has limited power to influence state policies. Net metering has played a key role in the
growth of RTS in India and around the world. Efforts to dilute or weaken net metering regulations, especially by major power contributing states will have an adverse impact in
terms of scaling up this sector.
With renewable power costs falling rapidly, C&I consumers have strong financial incentive
to switch to solar. The estimated savings compared to grid power is nearly 25 – 30%,
besides fulfilling of their RPO. To spruce up consumption in C&I sector, regulations around
OPEX model across states, to be made more flexible.
Going forward, DISCOMs to be designated as nodal agency for rooftop solar approval and
policy implementation, which is being implemented in states like AP and GUJ. DISCOMS
should take ownership and be responsible for closures.
States are also likely to implement new policies for RTS installation for residential sector
with good enough CFA, which is the best part to achieve 40GW targeted by 2022.
In my view, we are fretting too much over the 100 GW target and its achievement by 2022. This target obsession has led to frenetic activity with an eye on the clock. Also, the focus has shifted away from rooftop solar to the utility segment, where it is faster to add large volumes. But in this rush, we should not lose sight of the basics – quality, high performing and lasting solar installations as the goal is energy generation and not just capacity addition.
The rooftop solar target seems to have been abandoned midway. It is 2019, and we have achieved less than 5 GW to date. It looks certain that we will fall short of our goal of 40 GW. Apart from the shift towards solar farms, restrictive solar policies and arbitrary flip-flops are the major contributing factors for this situation. This should be a cause for concern and immediate course correction as rooftop solar has a very important role to play in a country like India, where land is expensive and resources limited. Besides, as energy is generated and consumed on-site, there are no transmission or distribution losses. It’s an easy to execute, plug and play system where no additional investments are required to upgrade distribution infrastructure.
In the commercial and industrial (C&I) segment, solar delivers a lot of savings. This has made rooftop solar very popular with C&I customers. However, as the same C&I customers are responsible for the discom revenues and cross-subsidy recoveries, discoms have started losing from the rooftop solar story. This has led to major retaliatory roadblocks for C&I rooftop solar from the states desperate to protect their already distressed utilities. However, rooftop solar need not be a tussle between discoms and developers. All we need is to ensure that discoms get a fair percentage of the savings realised from rooftop solar generation. The solar generation within a discom’s territory could also count towards their RPO targets. Once discoms start to gain from rooftop solar, they will become enablers in the process and 40 GW will not be a worry anymore.
First of all, I am proud that India has been recognised as one of the leading Solar Power Generators in the world. India is well recognised globally for not only having one of the largest installed bases- but even as a major solar component supplier after China. We all are aware about that cost of Solar PV plant construction in India is one of the cheapest in the World and this is all achieved through economies of scale.
In my opinion India could not have achieved any of the above without pushing for such huge targets. According to me achieving 50% of the target is also an achievement for the country. Having said that unless the in-consistent Regulatory Framework, contradictory state policies and empanelment procedures, smooth net metering procedures are laid – the said target cannot be achieved in my opinion. Even if the hitches in the regulatory framework are resolved, I feel that the below factors would be a limiting the 2022 target:
- Focus on Residential and small-scale C&I sector to achieve scale.
- Nationwide customers’ acceptance and awareness by either imposing mandatory installation norms or other regulatory methods, to achieve scale.
- Improvisation in the planning and Installation practices by focused EPC Contractors in order to achieve timely project completions.
- Price competition amongst Industry Members which indirectly induces to accept orders with incorrect costings will not let the EPC Contractors improve their efficiency neither achieve scalability nationwide.