India has set an aggressive rooftop solar target of 40 GW by 2022 based on the rooftop solar potential estimates of 42.8 GW provided by the National Institute of Solar Energy. A recent report brought out by Mercom states that at the end of 2019, cumulative solar installations reached almost 35.7 GW. Large-scale projects accounted for 31.3 GW (87.6%), whereas rooftop solar installations accounted for 4.4 GW (12.4%). Add to this yet another report submitted by the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Energy which highlighted that as per the year-wise targets set to install 40 GW by 2022, there should have been an installed rooftop solar capacity of 16,000 MW by 2018-19. But, the report said, as of 15 October 2019, only 1,826 MW capacity has reportedly been installed, which means that the achievement is only 11.50% of the target.
According to CSE report, by December 2019, India’s total RE installed capacity was only 86 GW, while the target is 175 GW capacity by 2022. In fact India will now have to install 37.8 GW of solar rooftop, 32.1 GW of solar utility and 23.3 GW of wind power capacity in just two and half years to meet the target.
The statistics make the target seemingly unrealistic and raise a question as to whether it can be met on time. The target is a tall order; however, it presents the stakeholders with lot more opportunities. Rooftop solar installation companies such as Tata Power Solar, Mahindra Susten, Adani Power, Suryaday, Vikram Solar, Renew Power, CleanMax Solar, etc, can look forward to households as well as commercial or industrial establishments for rooftop solar installations as they look at rooftop solar as a viable option.
The imposition of import duty on solar panels from China could act as a dampener as the cost of solar energy production will increase; however, it is with a long term objective to promote Make in India. In fact over 80% of all solar imports were from China primarily owing to the cost differentials with those manufactured in India. To safeguard the interests of Indian manufacturers, a 25% safeguard duty was imposed on imported solar panels between July 30, 2018 and July 29, 2019. Between then to January 29, 2020, the duty has reduced to 20%. It will further be reduced to 15% between January 30, 2020 and July 2020. Companies engaged in manufacturing of solar panels such as Vikram Solar, Waaree Energies, Tata Power Solar, BHEL, etc, can take advantage of the government's decision.
Why Install Rooftop Solar Panels?
• Cost Savings : The biggest advantage of installing rooftop solar panels is that they offer cost savings. The tariff rates for rooftop solar in comparison to industrial and commercial tariff rates are cheaper by 17% and 27% respectively. Rooftop solar installations are also attaining grid parity in many residential sectors of India. For building owners, rooftop solar installations can even help in cutting down electricity bills.
• Suitable for Indian Climate: Rooftop solar panels utilise sunlight to convert it into electricity. India is situated at an ideal geographical location and receives ample tropical sunlight. There are almost 300 sunny days with clear skies each year in India. Thus, rooftop solar panels are ideal to be used here.
• No requirement of Additional Space for Installation: One of the biggest advantages of rooftop solar panels is that they can be installed on any type of roof. So, people don’t need to vacate a land or invest in buying additional land to set up rooftop solar panels. Furthermore, the panels offer protection to the roof of the building in which they are installed.
How can the Target be Achieved?
The question is how do we go about meeting the target. The state of Kerala can act as a point of reference. The Government of Kerala's Agency for Non-Conventional Energy and Rural Technology - ANERT - through its dedicated programmes such as '10,000 rooftop programme’ played a crucial role in the initial proliferation of smaller solar rooftop (SRT) in the state. It conducted awareness drives in individual districts on the applicability and economics of off-grid systems and added to the MNRE specifications by including parameters such as increased inverter efficiency, enhanced guarantee period for battery, additional subsidy provided by the state government, etc. Further ‘Solar Connect’ (grid-connected systems) and the ‘Solar Smart’ (off-grid systems) allowed off-grid systems to go up to 5 kW and grid-connected systems to go up to 100 kW.
To achieve the set target, there must be a mega push to restore the sanctity of auctions, and new mechanisms should be explored to manage discom risks. To tackle land acquisition, the government could think of placing RE infrastructure on degraded lands.
Also ANERT' came up with online portal ‘Buy My Sun’ along with the Programme Management System and the m-ANERT mobile app. This eased purchasing and installing, besides making SRT adoption transparent and incredibly easy to use. It connected customers with vendors and their products, distribution companies, empanelled installers and inspectors. Everything, from buying an SRT system to its commissioning can now be done online, and this led to an uptick in the applications. A list of empanelled developers, system integrators and service providers further ensures that consumers have access to reliable facilitators. So as to improve service, ‘Urja Mithra - Akshaya Urja Service Centres’ was introduced in 140 constituencies.
Despite the tall order, the interest and potential in the states well complemented by facilitative conditions, dedicated programmes and additional monetary support will ensure that households and commercial/industrial take up SRT.