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‘Solar power unviable under current tariff structure’

According to reports, the Maharashtra Government can ill-afford to harness solar power with the current tariff structure that cross-subsidises low-end consumers by charging high-end users more.

Speaking at a discussion on grid connected solar rooftop systems, Ajoy Mehta, Principal Secretary, Energy, Maharashtra, said that against a procurement cost of ₹3.30-3.50 a unit of conventional energy, the Brihanmumbai Electricity Supply and Transport Undertaking at the lower end charged ₹3.50/unit and for large commercial consumers, ₹11/unit.

Across the State, the tariff for agriculture is ₹1 a unit.

The revenues earned from the higher tariff levied on large consumers provided ₹9,600 crore, of which, the shortfall caused by agriculture supply accounted for ₹6,500 crore. ₹1,000 crore went to subsidise low-end users (between 0-100 units consumers) and the balance took care of public supply such as street-lighting. This apart, there were costs involved in providing transmission lines and connectivity.

If the procurement cost of grid-based solar energy was ₹6-7/unit, then the commercial and industrial consumers need to be taxed more, which made grid-based solar energy unviable for procurers or power distribution companies.

Also, there were issues of grid parity pricing and cost of standby power. “I need solutions to the issues,” Mehta told the gathering, which was chaired by Farooq Abdullah, Minister for New and Renewable Energy. Abdullah said if the country wanted to be progressive and not be a slave to petrol- and coal-producing countries, then focus has to be on solar energy.

“In line with our national target, we are in the process of setting diverse solar projects across the country.

“These include a 4,000 MW solar project close to salt water lake in Rajasthan. In remote areas such as Ladakh, transmission lines are being set up to take power generated from solar projects to various villages. We have been running a pilot project to assess the viability of large-scale grid-connected rooftop solar projects and the run has been successful so far,” he added.

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