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Tamil Nadu’s domestic solar rooftop initiatives a damp squib

According to reports, the Tamil Nadu government’s initiative to get residents to ‘solarise’ their residential spaces seems to have fallen flat. A month after the state announced a solar policy which promised residents generation-based incentives for putting up rooftop solar systems, companies say enquiries from households has been negligible.

While there would be early movers who would like to adopt new technology, the incentives are not enough to make this a mass movement, experts say.

“The policy has certainly generated larger volume of enquiries but people are disappointed that there is no subsidy or financial schemes,” said the managing director of Solkar Solar Industries, K E Raghunathan.

“We feel that incentives are not attractive enough to pull the common man to this. The incentives need to be given for a longer period to help people recover costs,” said Pashupathy Gopalan, head of solar power company SunEdison India.

The government currently promises incentives of Rs 2 per kilowatt hour in the first two years, Re 1 in the next two and 50 paise in the following two years, bringing in about Rs 10,500 over six years. It costs roughly Rs 1.5 lakh to put up a 1 KW system which would generate about 5 units of electricity a day, enough to power lighting, fans and a fridge in a typical two-bedroom house.

And even with the current incentives, there is no clarity yet on how the funds will be disbursed. “There is not much clarity on how the net metering system (which quantifies how much power is put into the grid by the rooftop system) will work, and guidelines for this are still in the works,” said the director of S J Renewables, R S Ravi.

Financing too is a hindrance. “It would be very good if getting loans for the solar systems is made as easy as getting loans for other consumer durables,” an industry expert and the founder of Panchabuta a renewable energy focused newsletter, Vineeth Vijayaraghavan said.

While households are eligible for a subsidy granted by the Ministry of New and Renewable Energy, it is not very easy to get, SunEdison’s Gopalan pointed out.

Industry experts also believe that the government could play a larger role in setting right issues of funding. “The government can, for instance, set up a non-banking financial company (NBFC) or tie-up with other private NBFCs to disburse funds solely for this purpose and recover the loans through monthly electricity bills,” Vijayaraghavan pointed out.

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