Feeble Transmission and RPO Obligation Issues Restraining Solar Growth

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India’s aggressive move toward green energy implementation has helped the country to nearly topple dominating solar installers (countries) and claim their position in the world. Solar capacity additions in India have gathered incredible speed, doubling the solar capacity (from 5 GW in 2015 to 10 GW in 2017) within a year (give or take a few months). Rise in Net metering (30 of the total 36 states and UTs in India have net-metering policies in place) and a flurry of policies have increased on-grid capacity enhancement, and helped illuminate homes forming off-grid plants (more than 12000 homes electrified) as well.

Lag In Meeting RPO Target Decreases Addition Capacity

However, it is no surprise to us that there are challenges in making solar the mainstream energy source. And a primary one among those challenges, is the lag in meeting solar renewable purchase obligation (RPO) targets. As Government of India mandated, states in India have to procure a portion of the energy generation from renewable resources (primarily form solar). However, currently, 25 states (including Union territories) have failed in meeting their accepted target of solar renewable purchase obligation (RPO). Although, the Government push behind solar implementation has increased considerably, reaching 10 GW capacity, calculations show that a better focus on reaching RPO targets would have helped the country achieve near about 18 GW solar capacity within FY17.

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A closer inspection reveals that this lag behind reaching RPO targets has been consistent for more than 5 years in a row. It is quite surprising that even states like Gujarat and Rajasthan that are leading the solar shift in India, and have grid connected solar capacities of 1159.76 MW and 1317.64 MW respectively (quite higher than most of other states of India), have failed to achieve their respective RPO targets in FY ’17.

Lack of focus in helping states to reach RPO targets has reduced power generation opportunities. For example, 2015 had shown more than 5 per cent growth in power generation, while in 2016 power generation stood at 4.6%. As Indian Government has made promises of 100 per cent electrification by 2018, a better approach to meet and further increase the state wise RPO targets is important.

Weak Electricity Transmission Facilities

Besides RPO issue, another challenge in front of India’s quick green energy shift is feeble energy transmission facilities. Lack of focus on grid management has created gaps between energy generation and sending them to the farthest corners of the nation. India’s power demand has increased considerably from 98 kilowatt-hour (kWh) in 1971, to 914 kWh in 2013, 957 kWh in 2014, and 1010 kilowatt-hour (kWh) in 2015. And although, power generation in India is growing with more and more solar installations, the weakest link in this process is the distribution process. Beside lack of grid connection availability in the nation, DISCOMS currently suffer from losses due to lack of an upgraded infrastructure.

Therefore, along with ramping up the solar capacity, the Government also needs to get a better grip at chalking up and establishing a functional grid infrastructure in place. Improving the health of DISCOMS is also extremely important to make the power generation process bear fruit.

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Indian solar market is expected to grow at about 90 per cent in 2017, over 2016. The country already has 14 GW capacity of utility scale project in its pipeline, and even the rooftop sector is showing incredible growth surpassing 1 GW mark in 2017, growing more than 75% from 2016. Market predictions showing drop in demand in China, Japan and even possibly the USA in 2017, can help India to claim a larger portion in the world PV market. Properly utilizing these opportunities can lead India to claim a position beside China and USA. To seize these opportunities, India needs to take care of the issues that are slowing down its growth rate.

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