Rooftop Solar Energy Scenario in India and Why It Needs More Support

The recent initiatives, policy reforms, and growing investment towards promising sectors like Green energy testify the country’s intent. However, the recent budget for 2019 has failed to provide required support to Rooftop solar power sector, which has the potential to reach electricity to the furthest corners of India and make Power for All a reality. Currently, India has ~3.8 GW of installed rooftop solar energy capacity. Although the sector has shown 72-113% growth/year since 2015, the country is still far from reaching electricity to furthest corners of the country. It is important to understand that a country’s energy transition depends upon the awareness and involvement of ‘the common man’. And when ~60% of the country’s (India) population resides in rural areas, where the energy grid is still unreliable and often non-existent, utilization of rooftop solar power plants should be given a priority. And although, willingness to pay for electricity is the biggest issue in Rural India. Offering easy payment mechanisms for rooftop solar can promise to light up India.

With the world leaning towards rapid solarisation, falling prices of PV equipment and technology, growing investor interest towards solar panel installation, and India’s marketing potential for rooftop solar amounting to 1,24,000 MW, this is the perfect time for India to turn the tables by leveraging Rooftop solar energy adoption. The importance and urgency of promoting rooftop solar power have been seconded by other solar dominating countries. Let us see how.

Comparison with Other Countries

Although India’s rooftop solar energy industry is growing, its’ leading states such as- Maharashtra (437 MW), Tamil Nadu (312 MW), Karnataka (273 MW), Rajasthan (270 MW) are far away from matching growth statistics of countries that have taken a keen interest on solarizing every household.

For example-

  • The US has made incredible development within its green energy sector, despite President Trump’s policy favouring fossil fuel. Recently California has mandated (will be effective from 1st Jan 2020) power companies to take 50% of their total energy from renewable energy sources (especially solar power).
  • Germany implementing policies and initiatives towards rooftop solar growth have led to the lower levelized cost of electricity (LCOE) of a residential PV system (€0.09-€0.10 per kWh) than that of retail electricity rates around €0.30 per kWh. These initiatives stand to decarbonised 36% of the EU’s total CO2 emissions.
  • In the same breath, we should also identify that Australia became the world’s fifth largest market in solar panels installation in 2018, adding 5.3 GW. And currently every fifth house is solarised in Australia.

These examples identify that solar dominating countries have figured out that focusing on rooftop solar power growth, alongside utility-scale capacity additions is the only way towards a speedy solar adoption throughout the country. And the result shows positive figures in job creation, CO2 reduction and growing solar demand.

Scenario and Solutions

It is truly astounding that India has reached 3.8 GW rooftop solar energy capacity within a short time span. And initiatives like- APEPDCL approving the DISCOM-driven solar rooftop PV program, using RESCO model to encourage solar adoption in the Corporate sector, offering financial assistance through SRISTI, Planning “rent a roof” policy have and will aid in the progress of rooftop solar power. And although the recent budget for 2019 proposes offering single window clearance system for Solar Rooftop installations, the sector needs tremendous efforts to unleash its potential and reach sustainable energy to the furthest corners of the country.

However, the issues that are limiting rooftop solar energy growth in India are embedded deep within the positive outlook of the sector. Although, there is financial support to encourage solar adoption through subsidies, in most states those are only available after commissioning of the plant. This forces the consumer to bear the initial investment. Besides, there are some discrepancies and delays in subsidy disbursal.

A faster subsidy disbursal, flexible financing models to support initial investment for the plant, and a policy enforcement cell is required to help people opt rooftop solar.

Net-metering has the ability to speed up rooftop solar energy growth in the country. However, it still doesn’t have required clarity on implementation models. And paired with issues like- delays in getting permissions, lack of awareness within the utility stuff and the consumers, creates a huge challenge to meet installation targets.

To solve this problem, Government of India needs to remove restrictions regarding system size, connection type, metering type, developer model (OPEX/CAPEX) that few states impose (Tamilnadu, Gujarat). Government needs to enforce the system in every state, while bringing faster approvals.

Lack of information regarding cost, benefits, and important information is also limiting growth. I think clarity on policies and disclosing information is needed through NODAL agencies and media platforms. It will explain the functionality of the policies and help consumers and developers to go for rooftop installations.

Countrywide solarisation is the most important step towards a progressive India and the opportunities are right in front of the country. All that is left is to move forward with conviction.