Guidelines soon as State unaware of private players in the sector

Solar power scam rocking the State has forced the State government to think of a regulatory regime in the sector.

Aryadan Muhammad, the Minister for Power, said the government was working on a proposal for introducing some restrictions in the sector. It’s now open sector and anyone can start the venture. “Presently, there are no guidelines governing the firms operating in the sector,” he said.

Government will also launch an awareness programmes for people keen on installing solar power projects. The government subsidies for the project would be available for only those projects implemented through the empanelled agencies, he said.

Incidentally, the authorities are clueless about the private players in the sector and the possible quantum of power that can be produced or saved by tapping the solar energy. No data is available with the State government and Agency for Non Conventional Energy and Rural Technology (ANERT), the State nodal agency for the solar power projects, on the number of private players and their projects.

Customers too are vulnerable to exploitation by the fly-by-night companies as no government agency has any administrative control over them. The customers are left to the mercy of the companies as there are is no mechanism to ensure the quality of components provided by the companies, admitted the State authorities.

The regulatory role of ANERT is restricted to its 25 empanelled firms. Going by a rough estimate, there are around 80 companies offering solar power solutions in the State.

ANERT hopes to keep a tab on the projects undertaken by private firms. It may ask them to share information on their projects with ANERT. The proposal will be discussed at the next executive committee meeting of the agency. Such a system would help at least in creating a data base on the firms and power production, said M. Jayaraju, director, ANERT.

Mr. Jayaraju claimed that ANERT had been reviewing the performance of empanelled agencies. The progress of their projects and complaints from the customers were reviewed at the monthly meetings. Most of the complaints were on the delay in setting up the panel, he said.

There is shortage for solar panels in the market as a few States have come forward for emulating the Kerala model of power generation through rooftop projects. The Ministry of New and Renewable Energy had shared the Kerala project and approach with a few other States, including Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh and Punjab, he said.

Incidentally, a few autonomous government agencies, including Keltron, have ventured into solar power sector. The agency, according to its officials, had tied up with an empanelled agency for its projects. Another government agency had recently approached ANERT asking to acknowledge it too as the nodal agency for solar projects. However, ANERT had turned down the request, government sources said.

Don’t pay in advance

Staff reporter writes:

Tarun Kapoor, Joint Secretary in the Union Ministry of New and Renewable Energy (MNRE), who is spearheading the National Solar Mission, told The Hindu over telephone from New Delhi that ANERT should have been more vigilant against agencies trying to cheat people in the name of supplying solar systems. Mr. Kapoor said that MNRE will soon publish a separate list of empanelled manufacturers of batteries, solar panels and other components used in solar systems. Presently, the website of the Ministry has only the list of people/agencies supplying the entire unit to the customers.

The Joint Secretary urged the customers not to pay any advance for setting up solar systems having central subsidy. He said the Ministry usually releases the 50 per cent subsidy after installation and the remaining assistance only after completing a third party inspection.

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