The Maharashtra Electricity Regulatory Commission (MERC) has introduced amendments to the Maharashtra Electricity Regulatory Commission (Grid Interactive Rooftop Renewable Energy Generating Systems) Regulations, 2019. Through the Maharashtra Electricity Regulatory Commission (Grid Interactive Rooftop Renewable Energy Generating Systems) (First Amendment) Regulations, 2023, the net-metering cap for rooftop solar projects is raised to 5 MW. These modifications, which were made possible by the Electricity Act of 2003, are intended to simplify and enhance the rules that the state has in place regarding rooftop solar energy systems.
The amendments, effective upon their publication in the Official Gazette, are in response to the Electricity (Rights of Consumers) Rules, 2020, and the Electricity (Rights of Consumers) Amendment Rules, 2021, as notified by the Ministry of Power, Government of India.
Eligible Consumer and Renewable Energy Generating System:
An “Eligible Consumer” is now defined as someone in the area of a Distribution Licensee who intends to use a Renewable Energy Generating System on their premises to fulfill all or part of their electricity needs. This includes consumers catering to common loads like housing societies. The capacity of the system, depending on the arrangement, is limited to 5 MW or the Contract Demand/Sanction Load of the consumer.
Introduction of Gross-Metering:
Gross-Metering is a novel mechanism where the total renewable energy generated and the total energy consumed by an eligible consumer are accounted for separately. The billing process involves the total consumed energy being accounted for at the approved grid tariff, while the total renewable energy generated is accounted for at a predetermined tariff set by the Commission.
Group Net Metering and Net Billing Arrangement:
Group Net Metering allows surplus energy from a Renewable Energy Generating System to be injected into multiple electricity service connections of the same consumer within the Distribution Licensee’s area of supply. Net Billing Arrangement involves the purchase of surplus energy injected into the grid by the Distribution Licensee, with bills raised on the consumer for their grid consumption, giving credit for the injected energy.
Prosumer Rights and Gross Metering Arrangement:
Prosumers, maintaining consumer status and rights, can opt for either single-phase or three-phase Net Meters in the Net Metering or Net Billing Arrangement. For Renewable Energy Generating Systems under Gross Metering Arrangement, an additional check meter of appropriate class is to be installed by the distribution licensee.
Application Procedures and Compensation:
The regulations outline a detailed procedure for applying for the connectivity of a Renewable Energy Generating System with the Distribution Licensee’s network. In case of delays by the Distribution Licensee, a compensation rate of five hundred rupees per day is set for the concerned consumer.
Financial Compensation and Grid Support Charges:
If the credit amount continuously increases over three consecutive financial years, 50% of the amount is to be paid in cash to the consumer at the end of the third financial year. The remaining 50% is credited in the second electricity bill after the end of the third financial year. Delays in payment result in the Distribution Licensee paying simple interest on the outstanding amount.
Grid Support Charges are exempted until rooftop installations in the state reach 5,000 MW. Distribution Licensees have the option to approach the Commission for the recovery of banking charges.
Surplus Energy Adjustment and Priority List:
Surplus units injected into the grid are adjusted against the energy consumed in the monthly bill of service connections. A priority list, along with a sharing ratio provided by the consumer, is used for this adjustment. The consumer can revise this list once at the beginning of every financial year with a two-month advance notice.
Time Block Compensation and Wheeling Charges Exemption:
Electricity consumption in any time block is first compensated with the electricity generation in the same time blocks in the same billing cycle. Surplus units are adjusted against the energy consumed in the monthly bill of service connections based on the consumer’s ratios. Wheeling charges and wheeling losses for surplus energy under Group Net Metering are exempted until the installed capacity of rooftop solar in Maharashtra reaches 5,000 MW.
Meter Reading and Billing Information:
The accounting of electricity exported and imported by the Eligible Consumer starts from the date of connectivity of the Renewable Energy Generating System. The Distribution Licensee conducts meter readings for both the Renewable Energy Generation Meter and the Net Meter. Billing information provided to the Eligible Consumer includes details of renewable energy generation, electricity consumption, energy injected and drawn by Prosumer, and Renewable Energy generation units used by the Distribution Licensee for Renewable Purchase Obligation (RPO) compliance.
Energy Billing Equation and System Acceptance:
The energy generated by the Renewable Energy Generating System is billed based on a specified equation, covering fixed charges, applicable charges and levies, energy losses, and billing credits. The Distribution Licensee is obligated to accept power as per the Useful Life of the Renewable Energy Generating System, unless the Eligible Consumer ceases to be a consumer or the system is abandoned earlier.
These amendments to the regulations governing rooftop solar energy systems in Maharashtra underscore the state’s commitment to sustainable energy practices. By introducing mechanisms like Gross-Metering and Group Net Metering, the regulations aim to facilitate the growth of rooftop solar installations while ensuring fair compensation and transparent billing practices for consumers. The emphasis on timely actions by Distribution Licensees and financial compensation for consumers adds an additional layer of accountability to the regulatory framework. As Maharashtra moves towards a cleaner and more consumer-centric energy landscape, these amendments play a crucial role in shaping the future of rooftop solar energy in the state.
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