Boosting residential rooftop solar power generation

Over one crore households in the country registering themselves for the flagship rooftop solar scheme—PM-Surya Ghar: Muft Bijli Yojana—in about a month of its launching brings fresh hopes for decarbonization of the energy sector.
Boosting residential rooftop solar power generation

 Over one crore households in the country registering themselves for the flagship rooftop solar scheme—PM-Surya Ghar: Muft Bijli Yojana—in about a month of its launching brings fresh hopes for decarbonization of the energy sector. The rising electricity bill and the simplified application procedure for availing of subsidies are key drivers of the overwhelming response. Fixing appropriate tariffs by electricity distribution companies (DISCOMs) will be critical for the sustainability of the scheme’s achievements. Apart from subsidising the installation of solar panels, the scheme aims to provide free electricity up to 300 units to one crore households in the country. The DISCOMs will be required to provide more clarity regarding the benefits to rooftop owners of electricity generated during the period of solar hours during which they are not at home or whose consumption is negligible. The Grid-Connected Rooftop Solar Division of the Ministry of New and Renewable Energy issued an office memorandum directing DISCOMs not to seek any additional documents other than those notified. For technical feasibility, the only piece of documentation the consumers are required to submit is any of their electricity bills from the last six months. For project commissioning and net-metering, three documents are required to be submitted: a project completion report, a photograph of rooftop solar, and a consumer-vendor agreement. The project completion report includes details about solar panels and inverters. The total financial outlay for the scheme launched on February 13 is Rs 75,021 crore, and it has subsumed the previous scheme of phase II of the Grid Connected Rooftop Solar programme. Rs 65,700 crore of this amount being earmarked for central financial assistance to residential consumers and incentives to DISCOMS to the tune of Rs 4,950 crore that also include their expenditures made under the previous scheme are reflective of financial commitments under the scheme for payment of subsidies. Timely payment of subsidies to residential consumers will be crucial for motivating new registered consumers to make the investment for the installation of rooftop solar panels and purchasing the inverters. The launch of a national portal as the single source to register and apply for the installation of rooftop solar helped address the problem of reluctance on the part of DISCOMs in the previous phases of rooftop solarization and delayed registration and installation. The target of the new scheme is to achieve 40 gigawatts of rooftop solarization by 2026. A simplified process allows consumers to select from an array of vendors for the installation of the project. Quality control and capacity building by the vendors need to be prioritised to meet the target. In February, the government informed the parliament that solar and wind, being inverter-based generators, needed to respond as per the Central Electricity Authority technical standards for connectivity during transmission line faults in the grid. A few incidents of some of these generators going out of the grid in the Rajasthan Renewable Energy- Complex had occurred in the past. The grid was, however, stable, and the incidents were traced to inverter-level protective system settings, which were subsequently minimised after changing the system settings. The NITI Aayog report titled “Renewable Energy Resource Adequacy Planning to Meet RPO (Renewable Purchase Obligations) by the States in India” highlights that the total capacity required at 2029–30 for meeting the RPO target is 517.34 GW, which includes 104.16 GW of wind, 64.88 GW of hydro, 333.38 GW of solar, and 14.92 GW of bio-energy. Achieving these targets is essential for meeting the country’s climate action goal of decarbonising the energy sector. It also states that each state is obligated to meet a minimum of 43.3% of the power demand from renewable sources by 2030. “The effectiveness of RPO depends on many factors, such as the perception of the state on the competitiveness of renewable energy compared with other fossil sources, the availability of grid infrastructure to integrate RE, and the existence of strong compliance mechanisms,” states the report. This is indicative of some of the complexities standing in the way of DISCOMs purchasing surplus power from rooftop solar via the grid and explains the poor response to previous phases of rooftop solarization prior to the launch of the simplified and centralised implementation of the new scheme. This also explains the overwhelming response to the new scheme in Assam, with registration numbers surpassing the five-lakh mark in just one month. It is estimated that once the solar panels are installed on all the registered households and grids start getting electricity supply, it will result in a reduction of 720 million metric tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent emissions over the 25-year lifetime of rooftop systems. This will be a huge contribution towards climate change mitigation. Building awareness of this climate goal aspect of the scheme is of paramount importance to motivating Indian households to play their part in carbon emission reduction. The country achieving self-sufficiency in solar panel manufacturing by 2026 is crucial to catering to the rising domestic demand for residential solar projects.

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