According to reports, the Bangalore Electricity Supply Company (Bescom) has said that it does not intend to purchase solar power from private, small-scale generators in the City, on the ground that it is not cost effective.
The State-owned company has virtually shut its doors on many private generators, including several entrepreneurs using solar photovoltaic panels to generate electricity, hoping to sell it to Bescom.
The practice of feeding excess solar power back into the power grid and getting paid for it has become common in most industrialised nations around the world.
To enact similar measures and encourage the generation of solar power in homes, the Karnataka Electricity Regulatory Commission (KERC), on November 9, 2011, had fixed a tariff of Rs 14.50 per unit of electricity, to be sold to Bescom. It also directed Bescom to buy power from private generators through a system of competitive bidding.
The initiative led several enterprising individuals who not only aimed to power their homes or offices with solar power, but also sell the surplus to Bescom, to obtain a monetary return on their solar investment.
Ravi Shankar Satyanarayana, an IIT post-graduate, like several entrepreneurs, set up a nano rooftop solar power unit at his house, which generated some 10 kilowatts of power a day. “We not only used the power we generated, but fed the surplus back into the Bescom grid,” he said, praising the KERC initiative which he said has the potential to solve the problem of power cuts.
To date, Bescom has neither responded to the Commission’s order nor has it said that it will buy power from such private generators — save Satyanarayana’s unit, which it treated as a pilot case for the period of one year, in a letter dated January 27, 2012.
Sources at Bescom said purchasing power from private generators at the tariff prescribed by the Commission was not feasible.
“It is very costly. Why would I buy costly power when Karnataka Renewable Energy Development Limited itself is supplying us solar power at a cost of Rs 7.90?” asked P Manivannan, MD, Bescom.
Private entrepreneurs, however, argue that the project can help reduce the strain on the power grid, especially during the coming summer. A private power generator, speaking on the condition of anonymity, revealed that many of the private solar power generators have already approached the Commission on Bescom’s lack of compliance.
“We were told to file a petition against them for ignoring directions from the Commission, but such a step is time-consuming. What we need is a policy whereby the purchase of renewable energy will be an obligation and mandatory on the part of the electric company,” he said.
“If the KERC’s direction had been implemented by the Bescom, those solar units in the City could have contributed at least 100 megawatts of power to the City each year,” he added.
A group of private power generators has called for the tariff to be discussed and reviewed to make it more competitive.