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Revision of rooftop solar power tariff on the cards

KERC also proposes introduction of gross metering; public hearing in December

November 23, 2015 10:54 am | Updated 10:54 am IST - BENGALURU:BENGALURU: BENGALURU:

Karnataka, Mangaluru: 22/09/2015: : The ‘Rooftop Solar Power plant’ installed at St. Aloysius College in Mangaluru on 22/09/2015. Photo: H S Manjunath

Karnataka, Mangaluru: 22/09/2015: : The ‘Rooftop Solar Power plant’ installed at St. Aloysius College in Mangaluru on 22/09/2015. Photo: H S Manjunath

Planning to install a rooftop solar plant in 2016? Not only could you be paid different rates of tariff, a new form of metering could also debut in the State by then.

Karnataka Electricity Regulatory Commission (KERC) has set in motion the process of a probable revision in tariffs for rooftop and small kilowatt scale solar photovoltaic (PV) plants, and has called for views, suggestions or comments from stakeholders and the public by December 16. A public hearing will follow, after which the new tariffs could be introduced.

The exercise could have two major bearings: Karnataka could see the concept of ‘gross metering’ debuting in the State for domestic consumers, while the tariffs being paid to those who have installed solar plants could also see a downward revision. There are two factors that are hinting at the latter: the KERC, in its July 2015 order, revised the tariff for grid-connected megawatt scale solar PV and solar thermal power plants factoring the “decline in capital cost”, reducing the tariff from Rs. 8.40 a unit to Rs. 6.51 a unit for solar PV plants and from Rs. 10.92 a unit to Rs. 10.85 a unit for solar thermal plants.

At the same time, a ‘Discussion paper for determination of tariff for rooftop and small kilowatt scale solar PV plants’, published by the KERC, applies a similar logic for revision in tariff for rooftop and small kilowatt scale plants. “Reduction of capital cost is due to reduction in the price of solar modules that forms the single most major component of solar tariff. Tariff in respect of rooftop and small solar PV plants also needs to similarly reflect their present capital cost,” it says.

Set to be applicable to all the new rooftop solar and small solar PV plants of stipulated capacity entering into power purchase agreements from January 1 to March 31, 2016, the new tariffs will be a “remunerative price”, said KERC Chairman M.K. Shankaralinge Gowda.

“Solar PV module rates have come down, so the tariff has to come down. If the tariff is too high, it is a deterrent for supply companies to buy power; if it is too low, it will be a deterrent for the investor,” he told The Hindu , and added that Karnataka had the highest tariff rates in the country.

Cap on generation?

Apart from a new tariff and a new form of metering, Karnataka Electricity Regulatory Commission has also proposed to fix a cap on the generation capacity. “The commission is of the view that the trend of consumers installing solar rooftop power plants of capacities far in excess of their sanctioned load should not be encouraged as it is not in the larger interest of the distribution licensees and also the general consumers,” a discussion paper on tariff determination says, citing data furnished by Bangalore Electricity Supply Company this August that lists cases of consumers intending to install rooftop and other small solar power plants far in excess of their sanctioned load.

Bescom’s solar intake at 2.4 MW

Bangalore Electricity Supply Company’s (Bescom) grid-connected rooftop solar project has inched towards generating 2.4 MW of power, with 144 consumers on board at present. Getting off to a rather slow start, Bescom officials said more people were slowly coming forward to install rooftop solar plants now, with residential consumers comprising a large percentage.

However, this is still a far cry from the targets set by the Central and State governments. Karnataka Solar Policy 2014 envisages achieving a minimum of 400 MW of grid-connected solar rooftop plants and 1,600 MW of grid-connected utility scale solar projects in the State by 2018. The target for 2014–15 and 2015–16 was 100 MW each.

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