Karnataka sweetens its rooftop solar deal to woo consumers

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In a first among the states, Karnataka has allowed domestic consumers, hospitals and educational institutions to sell rooftop solar power one and a half times of their sanctioned load. The local electricity supply company (Escom) will buy the power at Rs 7.08 per unit.Karnataka hopes the generous terms will find many takers among the three consumer categories as other states have allowed only net metering. Gujarat, for instance, has allowed consumers to sell power only up to half of their sanctioned load. The sweetener in the case of Karnataka deal is a consumer can sell the maximum allowed power to the grid at a higher tariff, while the power one consumes is billed under a lower tariff. This is also called gross metering. The earlier net metering was somewhat dampening because a consumer could sell only the net of his own consumption. In other words, a consumer bought high-cost power from his own installation while the grid power cost much less. “Earlier, the government paid `9.56 per unit under the net metering, but people did not show much interest.This policy, however, is advantageous to consumers, and we hope to see good response from hospitals, educational institutions and domestic consumers,” Additional Chief Secretary , Energy department, P Ravikumar, said. Karnataka has 400 MW of unmet rooftop solar capacity target, and the power regulator, the Karnataka Electricity Regulatory Commission, has capped the latest offer at 300 MW for two years from now.

The remaining 100 MW rooftop capacity has been allowed for other categories of consumers such as industries and commercial installations. The regulators earlier thought small consumers such as domestic and institutional consumers like hospitals and educational institutions will grab the earlier net metering offer of buying power at Rs 9.56 per unit. But most of the capacity addition occurred in the non-targeted consumer categories such as big companies, many of whom set up installations by leasing rooftops of other owners such as poultry farms, polyhouses and warehouses. In the process, the domestic consumers lost out. Karnataka is supposed to create 7000 MW of solar capacity by 2022, and the electricity supply companies have signed power purchase agreements (PPAs) with developers for about 6500 MW of capacity . The power sector experts say there is not much legroom for the State to commit any more purchases of solar power. They also say that the State is likely to see 7000 MW of solar capacity in two years time, much ahead of the targeted 2022




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