7 PM | Potential of Roof Top Solar Power in India| 5 March, 2019

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News: Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs has recently approved Phase-II of the Grid Connected Rooftop Solar Programme.

More About phase II of Grid Connected Rooftop Solar Programme

Grid Connected Rooftop Solar Programme targets to achieve a cumulative capacity of 40,000 MW from rooftop solar projects by 2022.

The programme will be implemented with total central financial support of Rs.11,814 crore.

provides for central financial assistance (for residential rooftop solar installations) up to 40% for rooftop systems up to 3kW and 20% for those with a capacity of 3-10kW.

It will also focus on increasing the involvement of the distribution companies (DISCOM).

What is solar roof top energy system?

Solar rooftop are solar panels placed on top of roofs of commercial, institutional or residential buildings. They capture the light energy emitted by the sun and convert it into electrical energy. This setup is also known as solar rooftop photo-voltaic system.

Current status of rooftop solar energy (SRT) in India

  • As per Union Ministry of New and Renewable Energy (MNRE), Total installed capacity of SRT systems is only 2,158 megawatt (MW) in the country till December 2018.
  • Maharashtra, Tamil Nadu, Karnataka, Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh, Gujarat, Haryana and Delhi has the largest share in installation of SRT systems. Industrial segment has the largest share in all except Delhi.
  • Public sector undertakings (PSUs) have been the largest rooftop driver in Delhi.

Importance of RTSE

Achieving target: India has set an ambitious renewable energy target of 175 GW by 2022, including 100GW of solar power. This ambitious target cannot be achieved without converting RTSE as a major source of domestic energy.

Economic importance: If installation becomes cheap, adoption of rooftop solar can also become a cost-effective source of energy. They are one-time investments which continue to serve both nature and the society for a much longer time and also no extra land is required to set up rooftop. SRT systems can offer reduced power bills for households;

Promoting Accessibility: If solar panels become affordable, SRT systems can become a source of energy in the un-electrified areas with difficult terrain.

Clean energy: RTSE is one of the cleanest sources of energy. It emits no polluted and harmful gas in the process of production of energy.

Employment generation: manufacture of solar panels and ancillary components is labor intensive. Even setting up solar rooftop systems requires labor power. Thus, it provides employment to the significant no. of people.

Non-viable alternatives: The lack of access and unreliable supply often leads to reliance on alternatives like diesel generators, which are subject to high price volatility, in addition to numerous harmful health and climate effect

Hurdles in adoption of SRT systems

Despite significant progress in rooftop solar installations, reaching India’s target of 40 GW by 2022 will be challenging due to the following reasons

Lack of information: One of the key barriers to installing rooftop solar systems is that they do not know who to contact to understand the processes to be followed and permissions required.

Most of the technical information provided by various sources, including the government, tends to be Internet-based and inaccessible to large population.

High installation cost: The most significant barrier to rooftop solar in India is high upfront costs for installation. Commercial and industrial consumers are often reluctant to invest such a high amount upfront.

Limited finance availability: Due to perceived high risks and suspicion about performance for this relatively new sector, banks are reluctant to lend to solar rooftop projects. Borrowing costs can therefore be as high as 12% or more.

Implementation of the net metering policy: Another key barrier to rooftop solar adoption is the poor implementation of net-metering policies across the states.

High cost of energy storage: As solar power can only be generated during the day time, it warrants energy storage to ensure continued usage at night time or when solar radiation is low. Currently, the cost of a rooftop solar system with battery storage could be between INR 90,000 and 135,000 per kW depending on voltage (MNRE 2017 b).

Other measures to promote SRTE

Environment Impact Assessment (EIA) Notification, 2006 requiring buildings with an area over 5,000 square metre to have at least 1 per cent of their connected load through SRT.

The Reserve Bank of India has identified solar rooftop as a priority sector for lending. Eight public sector banks have included SRT systems under their housing or housing improvement loans.

Way ahead

SRT system can be a major source of change in the process of electricity generation and transmission. But for that significant hurdles must be removed by following solutions:

  • Information must be accessible to common citizens  on the different dimensions, like:
    • amount of shadow-free roof area needed for generating a unit of electricity and pricing;
    • operating the system,
    • after-sales maintenance and support; and
    • reliable rooftop solar vendors.
  • Building capacity of local electricity linesmen, electricity inspectors, and other nodal officials in the electricity department in billing and metering for solar power can go a long way in improving consumers’ experience.
  • Processes for approving net metering applications and disbursing subsidies will need to be efficient and painless to motivate consumers to invest in this new technology.
  • Finance is one of the major hurdle. Loans need to be made available for the installation, which requires significant capacity building of retail bank branches.
  • Instead of providing subsidies, government must rely on policy initiatives and administrative reforms.
  • Due to lack of monitoring and enforcement, initiatives like clause in EIA notification for SRT has become futile. There is requirement of mechanism that can monitor the progress on mandatory guidelines.
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