Solar rooftop segment awaits policy sunshine

V Rishi Kumar Hyderabad | Updated on June 07, 2019 Published on June 07, 2019

Though they are buoyed by the sector’s prospects, players look for govt support

Ground-level implementation issues, last-mile problems, netmetre-related concerns and inadequate finance options are all leading to a slower-than-projected growth in the solar rooftop segment in the country.

This is in spite of the Central government’s stated objective of promoting the rooftop segment across domestic, commercial, and industrial sectors.

While problems vary from one State to another, vendors seek a broad regulatory framework that could brighten the horizon.

Interactions with various players show that though the sector holds huge promise, they want State governments to address concerns to pave way for accelerated growth.

Sanjay Banga, CEO, Tata Power Delhi Distribution Ltd, said: “It depends on which State we are talking about in terms of solar rooftop installations. It makes perfect economic sense, as the average procurement cost has come down to about ₹2.60-3 a unit as against ₹4 a unit for thermal power at the peak purchase price.”

However, when it comes to Delhi, there is no incentive for setting up a solar rooftop in the domestic sector, as the tariffs are low and 50 per cent of around 400 units per month is subsidised by the State. Of the 1.6 million consumers, 1.4 million use below 3 kwh capacity, he said.

But in the commercial and industrial cases, it works out well, as consumers save about ₹ 3-4 per unit when they install a unit or source solar power.

Billing issues

Gautham Nalamada, Executive Director, Photon Energy, said: “There is a case for improving the netmetreing system with better-quality smart-metres. In the current scenario, there are a number of complaints about improper billing when excess power is exported from the unit to the grid.”

Hence, both vendors and consumers are unhappy as the billing goes awry.

States would have to look into the issue of how much can be carried forward and reverted to the consumer when there is excess production.

In Andhra Pradesh, an innovative scheme has been initiated, wherein consumers are offered a 1-kwh solar unit for ₹49,000, with an upfront payment of ₹15,000.

The rest is met with State and Central government funding. The State Discom is offering 12,000 kits, of which Photon is executing an order for 3,500 kits, Nalamada said.

According to a Mercom report, rooftop installations were down by 33 per cent during the first quarter. Raj Prabhu, CEO of Mercom Capital group, stated in the report that after four quarters of solid growth, the decline was due to difficulty faced in securing required approvals. However, the segment is expected to bounce back in the second half.

Vendors at the recent ‘Renewable Expo’ in Hyderabad were optimistic, and expressed hope that the sector would embark on an accelerated growth phase.

However, they were concerned about lack of customised financing options, constantly evolving Central and State policies related to taxes, net metreing hurdles, subsidy delays and lack of consumer awareness, which, in turn, led to slow growth.

During the Expo, Ajay Mishra, Principal Secretary Energy of Telangana, had said that with tariffs going up to ₹9 per unit for some domestic users who consume more power, it would be benefitial for them to install rooftop units tosave on their power bill. They will not need any subsidies. The payback works out to 3-4 years. Both domestic and commercial users can gain with solar installations.

Published on June 07, 2019

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