Section of manufacturers raises concern over certain aspects of subsidy scheme

Would there be takers among domestic consumers of electricity for a battery-less rooftop solar power system?

This question has come to the fore in the wake of concerns raised by a section of manufacturers of solar power products over certain aspects of the State government’s scheme of subsidy for domestic consumers, who choose to install rooftop solar power systems.

As part of the government’s scheme, a capital incentive of Rs. 20,000 will be provided to a domestic consumer who installs a 1-kilo watt (KW) battery-less solar rooftop photo-voltaic system. The system has to be connected to the grid of the Tamil Nadu Generation and Distribution Corporation (TANGEDCO). The State government’s incentive will be in addition to 30 per cent subsidy from the Union government.

For the current year, 5,000 domestic consumers will, initially, be chosen under the State government’s scheme. As the approximate cost of a battery-less solar power system is Rs. 1 lakh [which is the benchmark cost of the Union Ministry of New and Renewable Energy], a beneficiary is expected to shell out Rs. 50,000 and the remaining amount will be met through the schemes of the Central and State governments. The Tamil Nadu Energy Development Agency (TEDA), which will implement the State government’s incentive scheme, will coordinate with the Centre in getting the subsidy amount.

Articulating the view of the section of manufacturers, K.E. Raghunathan, managing director of Solkar Solar Industry, argues that the battery-less system would be suitable where there are no power cuts. His point is that when there is no grid power or power supply from the TANGEDCO, the system will not generate electricity. Only when there is grid power, solar power will be fed to the grid. This is why he insists on a rooftop solar power system with battery.

An official who is part of the TEDA replies that one has to look at the basic objective behind the installation of rooftop solar power systems.

If a consumer wants to address the problem of load shedding, he or she can very well go in for an inverter, which costs around Rs. 15,000.

In that case, one does not have to go in for a battery-less rooftop solar power system, whose cost is around Rs. 1 lakh. But, the purpose behind selecting such a system is to promote essentially the use of renewable energy.

Another issue raised by Mr. Raghunathan is about the availability of energy meters for the solar power systems. The official responds that the meters will be part of the systems to be provided by vendors to beneficiaries. Such vendors will soon be empanelled by the TEDA and they will indicate their cost of the systems.

Notwithstanding these concerns, the scheme has evoked a positive response from some others. R Sivakumar, Chief Operating Officer, Borg Energy India, says the incentive along with savings on electricity bills will enable the people to understand fully the usefulness of the solar systems.

Vineeth Vijayaraghavan, who is an advocate of renewable energy, running the non-profit initiative Solarillion, says people are able to achieve significant amount of savings – say about Rs. 50,000 – when they choose battery-less systems.

However, he has one suggestion to make.

There should be a provision for offsetting the loss of generated solar power that could go unconsumed in times of load shedding.

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