The recent proposal by the government to increase rooftop solarisation is a positive step forward but there are challenges, particularly around creating incentives for households to adopt it, experts connected with the renewable energy sector said at a panel discussion here on Wednesday.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi in January announced the Pradhan Mantri Suryoday Yojana, whereby the Centre would defray the cost of setting up rooftop solar panels for households that consume less than 300 units of electricity per month.
More rooftop solar solutions are necessary in India as they “democratised” installations — currently the bulk of solar power is provided via large solar parks or commercial rooftop installations — but currently most States provided subsidised electricity to households and that potentially discouraged consumers from investing in solar, said Sumant Sinha, CEO, ReNew Power, among India’s leading renewable energy companies. “Between paying for it [solar] and getting it for free [grid electricity], consumers might think why should i pay for it? Secondly you need to be able to sell that power to the grid when you are not at home. That means electricity distribution companies [discom] would now need an appropriate tariff at which they can buy it from you. Discoms have usually been shy to do that as [they think] that would make grid management whole lot harder. But the Prime Minister has decided that he wants more rooftop solar and if the PM decides, he will get it done.”
Adanair Turner, Chair, Energy Transitions Commission, an international think tank, said that there was huge opportunity globally for rooftop solar — both in the residential and commercial sector. “Globally there’s huge potential. We need regulation to aid that. For instance, it should no longer be possible to make an open-plan car park with a rooftop that doesn’t have a solar panel on it. People shouldn’t be allowed to build new factories without solar panels on top,” he said at the panel discussion that was part of World Sustainable Development Summit, organised by the The Energy Resources Institute (Teri).
Mr. Sinha added that high air pollution, particularly as witnessed in north India, further reduced the availability of electricity via solar panels, thus skewing the financial returns on it. “So, we need significant subsidies to make it viable,” he added.
Currently household rooftops solar installations are only about a quarter of the nearly 12 GW (1 GW is 1000 megawatt) rooftop solar installations in India. About 6.7 lakh households are estimated to have rooftop solar installations — a far cry from the targeted 1 crore installations that Mr. Modi aspires to.