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Scam takes the shine off solar industry

K.S. Sudhi
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Myriad stories on financial frauds and unrecognised solar companies scare away customers

The solar scam that scorched bigwigs in politics has scared away those keen on switching over to solar power.

The puzzlement set off by myriad stories of financial frauds by a firm may cloud the campaign to promote solar power and deter people keen on having the alternative power projects installed at their homes.

On Monday, phone was ringing off the hook at Agency for Non-Conventional Energy and Rural Technology (ANERT). The headquarters of the agency received around 200 calls on the day from anxious customers. Most of them asked about the credibility of the agencies roped in for solar panel works. Callers also asked for details of the firms qualified for implementing the project, said an official of the ANERT.

The agency officials said they used to informally receive alerts from the Union Ministry for New and Renewable Energy on performance of empanelled agencies. The agency keeps its list of empanelled agencies updated on its website. The names of the disqualified agencies would be scored in the website for the benefit of the customers, a senior official said.

Recently, three agencies were unlisted by the agency. While they would be allowed to complete the projects that had initiated, they will be barred for taking up new ones, the official said.

Meanwhile, ANERT is planning to fortify its inspection committees short of manpower by inducting more engineering graduates on contract basis. The committee is headed by the Joint Technical Director of the agency.

Engineering graduates, recruited on daily wage basis, will be trained for the job and incorporated in the committees. They would assist the senior officials of the agency for inspecting the projects, said M. Jayaraju, director, ANERT.

The Technical Inspection Committee will check every component of the solar project to ensure that they match the prescribed technical specifications. District engineers of the ANERT will randomly check 10 per cent of the projects that was inspected by the committee. The engineers from the headquarters will directly inspect one per cent of the projects inspected by the district engineers, explained Aneesh S. Prasad, the Joint Technical Director, heading the Inspection Committee.

The committee is focusing on a project by the government to set up 10,000 rooftop solar power units. The agency has completed site inspections as part of the primary assessments. Only one agency from the State had found place in the panel of 25 firms selected for the Kerala project. All the approved agencies had been asked to set up at least two service centres in every district, said Mr. Jayaraju.

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