Making a Case for Residential Rooftop Solar Energy in India

Industrial and commercial solar sectors in India have been way ahead of residential solar growth in past few years. However, with Government of India focusing on the residential solar to raise awareness and to involve common man into the fold, residential solar adoption has picked up recently. Residential solar capacity, which is currently at 130 MWp, is expected to go 10 times higher and beyond the current capacity within the next couple of years.

Countries like- Germany, USA (California) have proven that residential solar can be made into a progressive solar sector, allowing people to generate their power directly and minimize their electricity bill. To re-confirm the success of Germany and USA (California), we should point out that within 2018, nearly 16% of Germany’s net electricity consumption came from Solar. Moreover, we are all well aware of California’s recent mandate to install solar panels in all new residential buildings. These actions prove how aggressively these countries are moving towards complete solarisation, by involving residential consumers.

Evaluating the Case for Rooftop Solar on Residential Buildings in India

In 2017, residential rooftop solar grew by 45% over the last year and in 2018, it grew 75% y-o-y. In addition, Government of India is offering 30% capital subsidy to residential rooftop solar customers to encourage higher green energy adoption.

And although, statistics show that marketing potential of the rooftop solar in the country stands up to 1,24,000 MW, India added only 864 MW of rooftop solar capacity in 2017, total capacity amounting to ~1.2 GW. Even states that are leading India in rooftop solar capacity- Maharashtra (237 MW), Tamil Nadu (191 MW) Rajasthan (129 MW), Karnataka (125 MW), Gujarat (103 MW) have commercial and industrial installations to credit (taking 30% and 61% share) for their current solar capacity, while residential capacity stands at a meagre level (9% in 2019).

If we are to compare India’s Residential rooftop solar capacities with solar dominant countries, we will see a huge gap, which highlights the reason behind this scenario.

The reason behind delay in rooftop solar growth (especially in residential sector) are- delays in policy enforcement, disallowing important policies like- Net metering (Tamil Nadu), putting cap on net-metering, lack of clarity in disbursement of subsidies, lack of clarity in policies (net metering), lack of flexible financing (delays in subsidy payment), bureaucratic hurdles in getting approvals, and lack of awareness etc.

Due to these issues, cities like Mumbai, Chennai, and even Delhi, that were expected to become leaders in residential solar growth, have failed to show expected result. For example, we can point out that- Delhi has solar potential of 1.25 GW (estimated), and its official target is 1 GW by 2020. However, the city has only installed 95 MW of solar rooftop capacity, out of which 3 MW is of residential installations.

How to Remedy the Situation

Countries that are successful in rooftop solar sector, have shown that involving common man into the solar adoption program helps in raising awareness, which speeds up the overall solar adoption rate. Therefore, India needs to walk on the same footsteps to succeed in offering power for all and lifting the darkness off of more than 200 million people in India.

  • Rooftop solar has to surpass the cost effectiveness of the subsidised power to encourage residential solar adoption.
  • Also we need to point out that the residential consumer has to bear the initial cost of installing the solar plant, before the subsidies are made available to them. The Government of India needs to focus on offering financial solutions to reduce financial burden and encourage residential solar consumers.
  • Government of India also needs to focus on community solar, which buildings without solar installation facility can easily obtain.
  • Investment in energy storage technology is needed to help assure the residential solar plant owner.
  • Although, there are 300 million homes in India, only a meagre percentage of that number has capable roof to hold solar panels safely (mandates to build solar installation capable buildings and install solar on Government buildings needs to be extended in residential and commercial buildings).
  • Making information on subsidies, installation and benefits accessible to all will also help in developing residential solar growth.
  • Bringing in nodal agencies to spread awareness and involving common man can work wonders in rapid growth in residential solar sector.

India has immense potential in leading the solar revolution, and it can only be done by involving common man and making every resident of India adopt solar. Offering facilities and raising awareness about them is the best way to assure success. The path to progress has also been laid out. Only acting on it can build the future solar promises.