The Kanara Chamber of Commerce and Industry (KCCI) has said that the rights of electricity consumers should be protected in the Electricity (Rights of Consumer) Rules, instead of curtailing them.

Submitting the comments to the Draft Electricity (Rights of Consumer) Rules 2020 to the Union Power Ministry, Isaac Vas, President of KCCI, said there is a mention of grid-interactive rooftop solar PV systems being allowed net-metering for loads up to 5 kilowatts (kW) and gross-metering for loads above 5 kW in the draft.

“We want to point out that this is highly problematic for consumers (above 5 kW) who are today procuring solar for their rooftop to reduce their electricity bill,” he said.

Under net-metering rules that prevail in many states of India today, customers are allowed to offset their normal grid electricity consumption with power generated from their rooftop solar system, and pay for the balance grid electricity consumed.

This will enable consumers to reduce their electricity bill, and serve as an incentive for industrial, commercial and residential consumers to install a rooftop solar system on their premises, at their own cost, he said.

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If gross-metering is introduced, then the electricity generated from a rooftop solar system would be purchased by state-level distribution companies (discoms) at a rate fixed by the state-level regulators, and that amount would be reduced from the consumer’s electricity bill. “The rate at which discoms buy electricity is generally fixed at around ₹3 per unit (kWh). This rate is far too low to provide any incentive to residential, commercial and industrial customers to procure their rooftop solar systems,” Vas said.

A mandate for gross-metering effectively means that consumers will not find it attractive to become a ‘prosumers’. This goes against the very intent of the electricity rules, which intends more consumers to become ‘prosumers’, he said.

(According to the Draft Electricity (Rights of Consumer) Rules, 2020, a ‘prosumer’ is a person who consumes electricity from the grid and who can also injects electricity into the grid for the distribution licensee using same point of connection.)

Furthermore, changing from net-metering to gross-metering will be seen as a monopolistic move that safeguards the interests of discoms at the expense of the consumer.

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Many ‘prosumers’ have already invested in the solar rooftop considering the existing rules. Many solar manufacturers have invested in India considering the existing rules. A sudden change of these rules would show the unpredictability of the existing rules in the country, he said.

“We would strongly recommend that net-metering be allowed for all rooftop solar systems irrespective of size, wherein consumers are permitted to offset the energy generated from solar for their captive use. Only if consumers have generated excess solar energy (over and above what they can consume themselves), would the customer then sell it to a discom at a rate fixed by the regulator. With net-metering, there would remain a powerful incentive for today’s consumers to become prosumers,” he added.