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Despite subsidy, Indian cities slacking on solar rooftop system

According to reports, despite a substantial subsidy offered by the government, installation of solar rooftop systems has been “dismal” in metros including Delhi and Mumbai, an analysis by a green body on Tuesday said.

Rooftop solar systems are those in which electricity is generated by installing solar panels on rooftops of residential or commercial buildings.

Greenpeace India in its new analysis – ‘Indian cities slacking on rooftop solar’ said that despite policies and net metering guidelines in several states, installation of such systems has been dismal.

“Despite policies and net metering guidelines in several states and a subsidy of 30 per cent offered by the Ministry of New and Renewable Energy (MNRE), the installation of solar rooftop systems has been dismal in leading metros in the country, especially in Chennai and Mumbai,” the green body said.

According to reports, a net metering is a new concept where an instrument which has a special metering and billing agreement between utilities and their customers, facilitates the connection of small, renewable energy-generating systems to the power grid.

It said, Delhi, which offers a ‘generation-based subsidy’ as per the solar policy released last year, as well as net metered connections, has also failed to see a big uptake in the residential sector.

“Delhi’s total solar potential is 2,500 MW with a residential potential of 1,250 MW. The official target in Delhi is to reach 1,000 MW worth of solar installations by 2020 and 2,000 MW by 2025.

“But as of December 2016, only 35.9 MW have been installed out of which only 3 MW were residential installations in March 2016,” the analysis said.

On the other hand, Mumbai, which has a potential of 1,720 MW has only 5 MW overall installed till now while the entire state of Tamil Nadu has less than 2 MW as against a rooftop solar target of 350 MW.

The green body said that the MNRE has earmarked 40 GW as the rooftop solar target by 2022 but as of December 2016, installation had just crossed 1 GW, it said.

The reasons for the slow uptake seem to be lack of familiarity with the process and fear of bureaucratic red tape, the body said while asserting that though net metering provisions are present in most states, effectiveness of implementation varies significantly.

“Despite the national incentive in the form of a 30 per cent capital subsidy, and a range of state incentives and schemes, rooftop solar is yet to take off in the same manner as large-scale solar.

“However, this does not mean India should lower its ambitious targets, as some have suggested. Rather, the government must step up and play a more proactive role in encouraging rooftop installations,” said Pujarini Sen, Climate and Energy Campaigner, Greenpeace India.

Sen said that this can be done via innovative financing schemes, aggregating demand and incentivising city and state governments.

“The potential benefits in terms of reduced energy expenditure and cleaner air due to reduced demand on fossil fuels are too significant to be ignored.

“As the convenor and a founding member of the International Solar Alliance (ISA), and a country with abundant solar potential, India’s commitment to clean energy must continue to be robust,” Sen said.

Noting that air pollution leads to 1.2 million deaths every year while referring to a ‘Global Burden of Disease’ study, Greenpeace India said decarbonising the power sector is essential to tackle the menace of air pollution.

Referring to a poll conducted by Greenpeace, the body said that close to 55 per cent of the 812 survey respondents from its supporter base expressed interest in investing in and installing solar.

“There is still a widespread perception that installation of rooftop solar panels needs a large investment, and people are not always aware of the financial incentives available.

“If central and state governments are serious about boosting solar, they must do a better job of reaching out to resident welfare associations and community groups to encourage people to shed their inhibitions and embrace rooftop solar,” said Sen.

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