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550 houses in Chennai look towards the sun for power

According to reports, driving through colonies in Bangalore, one would spot solar water heaters on every roof. A walk down the streets of Gandhinagar in Gujarat would show that every house wears a solar hat. And now, Chennai is waking up to solar, albeit slowly. The everlasting power crunch is driving several of the city’s residents to look at the sun for power from rooftop solar energy systems.

Distributed or rooftop solar power, experts say, is the best approach as there would be no loss in transmission from power plants to houses. Officials from Tamil Nadu Energy Development Agency (TEDA), the state nodal agency that drives adoption of renewable energy sources, said the government has received applications for 546 kilowatt (kw) from Chennai, which means that about 550 households have evinced interest in going solar (assuming that every household sets up a 1kw system which would suit an average household’s needs).

A 1kw system costs between Rs1.5 lakh and Rs1.8 lakh, and since adoption of such systems isn’t economically viable, the state government has announced incentives for households that choose to set up rooftop solar energy systems under the state’s solar policy.

The policy also mandates commercial establishments to procure a part of their energy requirement from solar sources, and the government is leading by example with several government buildings setting up solar energy systems on their rooftops. The TEDA office was the first to have a rooftop system. The secretariat, Raj Bhavan and the corporation will each get 30kw systems.

Several private entities have set up solar energy systems: D G Vaishnav College set up a 100kw system. Economist House, a publisher, set up a 25kw system at Guindy, and Scope International, Standard Chartered Bank’s BPO, has a 100kw system on its roofs. But the adoption across residential and commercial establishments is anything but ubiquitous. Several malls and office buildings are yet to set up systems, despite being mandated to procure 3% of power from the sun by the year end.

The government policy is out, but action is yet to be taken on implementation. For instance, it promises generation based incentives and capital subsidies for houses with rooftop systems, but there is no word on how these will come through. Even for systems that have been set up, subsidies haven’t been passed on.

“The electricity regulatory commission is holding public hearings and guidelines will be out soon,” Sudeep Jain, chairman and managing director of TEDA, said.

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