Government of India has made incredible strides in speeding up solar energy growth. Country’s recent initiative to revise the renewable purchase obligation (RPO) goals for up to FY 2012-22 is expected to improve solar panels adoption scenario. For FY19-20, solar electricity RPO is set at 7.25% and for FY20-21 solar RPO is set at 10.50%. This clearly speaks of Government of India’s intent towards solarizing the country by increasing share of renewable energy within mainstream energy consumption. However, although we should appreciate and celebrate India’s continued support towards solar energy in India, we also need to highlight that RPO compliance has not been up to the mark.
Surveys show that most states are behind reaching their set yearly targets, thus making one of the most important policy frame work (RPO) inactive. This has slowed the growth of solar panel installation as a mainstream energy source. Introducing more and more solar power panel systems will not make solar the mainstream power source, until the power is fed to the grid and utilized.
Nearly, 16 Indian states are behind in reaching set RPO targets (less than 60% of their targets). Although, states like- Rajasthan, Gujarat are doing well in solar and have huge potential in leading Indian solar revolution, still they are failing in respect of meeting RPO targets. This is not a sudden development; states in India have been failing to reach the targets for quite a while now (5 years in a row).
While other states in India are also struggling to reach their RPO targets, West Bengal, Sikkim, Tripura, Meghalaya, Jharkhand, Manipur, and Goa have shown worst condition of RPO fulfilment identifying near about 90% RPO deficit. RPO is not just about raising the installed green energy capacity; RPO serves as the best way to turn solar power into mainstream energy by increasing its consumption.
Why RPO Targets Were Not Achieved?
Financial health of DISCOMs stands as one of the primary issues behind states lacking in reaching the targets. DISCOMs, burdened with financial crisis are showing lack of interest in buying solar energy in India. State regulatory commissions allowing DISCOMs to carry the unfulfilled RPO burden to the next year have only extended the issue. Besides financial issues, transmission and evacuation issues, not having payment guarantees, and lack of enforcement to meet RPO target can be considered as main problems behind limited growth in reaching RPO targets.
Government of India has taken steps towards faster RPO compliances, by waving off the interstate transmission charges, developing green energy transmission corridor, planning a new tariff policy, bringing Ujwal DISCOM Assurance Yojana (UDAY) programme, offering better financing, and developing compliance cell for RPOs in the country.
We must further add that compliance cell development is a decisive action, as state electricity regulatory commissions (SERCs) did not focus on enforcing RPO target fulfilment. Thus leading DISCOMs to easily ignore RPO targets. MNRE has also constituted a new monitoring cell, which will gather data on RPO compliance monthly and let the Discoms know how much they are lagging behind their mandated target. They will also take up non-compliance related issues with the authorities, making sure that targets are met. The cell will act as the bridge between states, the central electricity regulatory commission (CERC) and SERCs, with specific purpose of meeting the RPO targets.
This is certainly a step India needed, to increase its speed of solar energy transition. However, more focus is needed in unburdening DISCOMs, so that they can easily buy solar power. Following mandates religiously would help the new compliance cell to support solar energy in India, which will result in an energy rich and self-reliant country.