Solar policy sparks incentive row

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The solar power policy unveiled by the Delhi government could be a major boost for residents who have homes with rooftops to invest in renewable energy. Besides net metering—it is a billing mechanism that credits solar energy system owners for the electricity they add to the grid—the new norms will help them earn generation-based incentive.The policy, which was announced by the government on Monday, sets a generation target of 1,000MW in five years in order to make Delhi an environment-friendly city.Renewable energy experts seem divided over the initiative. The generation-based incentive (GBI) of Rs 2 per unit for the first three years comes with a few riders. Government officials said it was a “limited amount”. “A sum of Rs 10 crore for the first year, Rs 20 crore for the second and Rs 30 crore for the third year has been earmarked for GBI. As per our calculations, this should be sufficient to incentivise domestic consumers, but if the demand goes to more than expected, we will rework our modalities and seek more funds from the government,” Sukesh Jain, secretary, power, told TOI .Jain also clarified that the government did not want to encourage subsidies in the long run because solar power any way was affordable.A section of experts, however, took a cautious approach on the policy. “Though the policy is good, it isn’t very ambitious because it will incentivise domestic consumers to generate about 100MW, which is barely 1% of Delhi’s electricity demand,” said Chandra Bhushan, deputy director general of CSE.When DERC announced the net metering regulations over a year ago, it attracted many domestic consumers who wanted to utilise the option to bring down their power bills. In about a year, BSES discoms said they had “energized 125 rooftop solar connections in their jurisdictions with a sanctioned capacity of 5,380kW (5.38MW)”.“Apart from this, 37 solar net metering projects with a cumulative sanctioned load of over 800kW are under various stages of commissioning at the consumers’ end. So far, there are 46 domestic consumers, 39 non-domestic and 15 others who have opted for solar power generation in BSES areas,” said a discom official.In Tata Power Delhi’s distribution areas of north and northwest Delhi, 41 consumers have been given connections with a load capacity of 2.6MW. “Another 30 connections are in the pipeline with a load capacity of 2.5MW. This is a mix of domestic, non-domestic and industrial consumers but only 15% consumers are from domestic category,” the official added.Pujarini Sen of Greenpeace India said the policy was a major step forward in meeting national solar targets. “It’s a progressive policy. We had highlighted that shared rooftop space or rooftop rights was one of the concerns for residents in Delhi. The policy has addressed that through virtual net metering. Generation-based subsidy is also a good feature,” Sen said.Domestic consumers who opted for net metering said the payback period was very long. “My power bills kept going up every year as tariffs increased. Then I decided to switch to solar power and went in for a 5kW solar panel which generates up to 3.5kW per day. The initial installation cost me about Rs 7 lakh,” said Pankaj Rajpal, a resident of Kailash Colony.”While the panels have reduced my power bills considerably, recovery of the initial capital cost may take up to 10 years. Instead of Rs 8,000, now I pay about Rs 1,000 every month.”Rajpal added that net metering had made a huge difference. “The solar panel generates power during the day, and we pump this power into the grid. The power we feed into the grid is then adjusted in our electricity bill by the discom,” he said.URJA, an rwa federation which has collaborated with Greenpeace to create awareness about renewable energy, recently installed 1kW solar systems in each of their five offices. “We invested about Rs 1 lakh in each rooftop system. Though costs may seem high, there is no other option but to consider solar power,” said Asutosh Dikshit, CEO of URJA.Nevertheless, green energy firms agreed that the policy would push consumers to consider solar rooftop as an option. “I think the incentive and net metering system are going to interest many consumers but the capital cost of setting up rooftop systems is high. It would have been nice if the government facilitated loans or financial schemes to bring down the cost,” said Akash Vora, associate vice-president of Urjakart.

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