Transforming Challenges into Opportunity: Only Way Indian Rooftop Solar Can Succeed

Of the 40 GW solar capacity target announced for Indian rooftop sector, the country has surpassed 1 GW capacity recently. Although these numbers stack up pretty low in comparison with rooftop solar capacity in dominant countries, this development shows more than 113 per cent growth rate over 2015. Such a growth rate can be considered impressive factoring in the lack of industrial infrastructure within the country (which dominant countries possess). However, recent plan devised by Central Electricity Authority of India (CEA), which leads us to expect adding another 24 GW rooftop solar capacity over the 40 GW target by 2027, needs more than just Government support to be made possible.

3.4 MW Rattan India Project,MP

Growth Metrics and Challenges

Out of the 1,020 MW rooftop solar capacity in India, commercial, residential, and Government has respectively installed 263 MW, 260 MW, and 121 MW, while industrial sector alone holds 377 MW capacity. Within FY17, the Indian rooftop sector is expected to reach 1,500 MW capacity. This will put India in a position to install about 6,500MW per year (for next 5-6 years) to reach the 40 GW capacity alone. Although, the Indian rooftop sector has grown from adding 72 MW capacity per year to 227 MW capacity per year since 2013; to achieve a 40 GW target, India would certainly need an enhanced strategy involving- soft loans, tax credits, active participation of municipalities and market-based economy. India has a total of 300 million houses, and the country’s rooftop potential is calculated to be 1,24,000 MW. If only 1.3% of the total household can be made solar compatible, more than 30 per cent of the estimated rooftop potential can be covered. However, this means completing near about 40 lakh residential solar installations, which, needless to say, is quite the task. Although, Indian Government is taking initiatives like- identifying 7,000 MW rooftop installation on Government buildings, bringing large tenders (1,000 MW by SECI) of rooftop installations, etc., to meet the target in front of us, focus on a few other challenges is needed as well.

St. Xavier's rooftop plant_1

Acknowledging the Challenges and Turning the Tables

India needs involvement of the common man to succeed in reaching the target. Thus, projects amounting to 10KW capacity for residential/small commercial clients needs to be done at a larger scale. More and more awareness campaigns explaining quality, cost, and benefits of solar can also raise acceptance and allow people in rural as well as urban areas to select solar energy. MNRE is trying to spread awareness through radio and TV media. However, bringing in nodal agencies, arranging school level education programs, and solar demonstration events in rural and urban areas can work wonders.

There are policies in place to support rooftop growth, but delays in implementation of policies, delays in getting approvals for net-metering, problems in getting approval from DISCOMS, lack of clarity in cost distribution, and lack of a standard installation methodology within the country lines are creating roadblocks for rooftop solar growth. A better control over policy development and timely implementation, mandatory standardization of processes (technical or otherwise), developing committees for state wise inspection and enforcement of mandatory policy and procedures, developing skilled professionals, bringing clarity regarding capital subsidies, etc. can streamline the process and help rooftop industry flourish.

Lack of PV quality control in the country (India currently has only 5 MNRE accredited module testing facilities) can confuse buyers in getting the right product and setting up solar plants on the roof. Suitable quality control in the market can remedy this issue allowing individuals to take the right decision towards going solar.

150kW B S Abdur Rahman Univ-1

To encourage residential and small commercial installations, Government would have to draft an easier financing solution. Easy access to finance can be a game changer for rooftop growth, bringing common men in the fold. Besides Capex model, Opex and lease model financial strategies and products need to be introduced in the market for smaller installations.

It is obviously a multi-pronged strategy to facilitate the growth we want to see in Indian rooftop solar sector. However, a closer inspection would showcase simplicity within the system, upholding the need of ‘involving residents of the country within the development for a faster progress’ as the core of all of these plans and processes.