Sunshine on India’s solar goals

The increase in the installed capacity of solar in India from 2.82 Giga Watts (GW) to 73.32 GW over the past nearly ten years is reflective of the country’s policy push for decarbonization of the energy sector for climate change mitigation.
Sunshine on India’s solar goals

The increase in the installed capacity of solar in India from 2.82 Giga Watts (GW) to 73.32 GW over the past nearly ten years is reflective of the country’s policy push for decarbonization of the energy sector for climate change mitigation. The National Institute of Solar Energy (NISE) has estimated the country’s total solar energy potential at 748 GW, which points towards the huge potential for its generation. The country achieving self-sufficiency in solar cells is critical to tapping this potential and meeting its climate goals of achieving 500 GW of installed capacity from non-fossil fuel sources by 2030. Information furnished by the Ministry of New and Renewable Energy in the parliament shows that the country has achieved self-sufficiency in the production of solar modules/panels but the country is yet to achieve substantial capacity in the production of solar cells. The data shows that, with respect to solar module manufacturing capacity enlisted in the Approved List of Models and Manufacturers (ALMM) or applied for enlistment in ALMM and independent assessment by NISE, the installed capacity of solar photovoltaic (PV) module manufacturing capacity in the country is around 50 GW. It is projected to increase to 110 GW by 2026. Solar PV modules, or solar panels, capture sunlight and convert it into electricity. Industry estimates put the installed capacity of solar cell manufacturing in the country at around 6 GW. Import-reliance to meet demand for solar cells has kept the upfront cost of solar power installation high. The imposition of customs duty on imported solar panels and cells to protect domestic manufacturers led to an increase in the price of solar panels, which has slowed the large-scale adoption of home-based solar energy systems. Around 11,171 million US dollars of solar cells and modules have been imported into the country in the last five years, which is around 0.4 percent of total India’s merchandise imports during the same period, the government told the parliament. Augmenting domestic manufacturing of solar cells along with solar modules will be crucial to matching the planned increase in installed capacity in the coming years. Successful implementation of the Rooftop Solar (RTS) programme in the residential sector is essential to demonstrate how individual households can simultaneously benefit from solar energy and play a crucial role in the country achieving its climate goals through renewable energy. The government provides Central Financial Assistance (CFA) for the installation of rooftop solar in the residential sector, including the Residential Welfare Association and Group Housing Society, under the RTS programme. Under this scheme, the ministry provides 40 percent subsidy for the first 3 kW, 20% subsidy beyond 3 kW, and up to 10 kW. The scheme is implemented by local electricity distribution companies. The Ministry recently issued an advisory cautioning residential consumers against some rooftop solar companies and vendors who are setting up rooftop solar plants by claiming that they are authorised vendors by the Ministry. It clarified that no vendor has been authorised, and the scheme is being implemented in the state only by DISCOMs. The DISCOMs have empaneled vendors through a bidding process and have decided rates for setting up a rooftop solar plant. This also points towards the gap in awareness among residential consumers about the RTS scheme. DISCOMs not playing an active role in building awareness have allowed these malpractices by unauthorised vendors, which need to be addressed on a priority basis. Phase II of the RTS programme envisages the installation of 4,000 MW of RTS capacity in the residential sector until March 31, 2026. The CFA is not available for institutional installation. Experts have, however, pointed out that there are challenges in RTS installation in multi-storeyed apartments due to a lack of clarity about the share of unused electricity of an individual apartment owner. While ownership of rooftops is common, the use of electricity generated is going to be different for different apartment owners, due to which the adoption of RTS by multi-storeyed apartments remains lower than anticipated despite the advantage of a reduced electricity bill. For households with independent campuses, it is easier, but as cities are growing vertically, tapping rooftop solar potential without addressing the issues for owners of multi-storeyed apartments remains challenging. Residential consumers willing to set up a rooftop solar plant under the RTS scheme can apply online and get rooftop solar plants installed by listed vendors by paying the cost of the rooftop solar plant and deducting the subsidy amount given by the Ministry as per the prescribed rate to the vendor. The Ministry provides the subsidy amount to the vendors through DISCOMs, and residential consumers, in order to avail themselves of the subsidy, must install the solar plant procured from authorised and empaneled vendors. The solar panels and other equipment to be installed by the empaneled vendors shall be as per the standard and specifications of the Ministry and also include 5-year maintenance by the vendor. Maximising daylight along with RTS installation can rapidly bring down fossil demand for electricity generated from fossil fuel sources.

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