Govt planning ‘rent a roof’ policy in solar power push

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The Union government is working on a “rent a roof” policy to support its ambitious plan to generate 40 gigawatts (GW) of power from solar rooftop projects by 2022, said Anand Kumar, secretary in the ministry of new and renewable energy. The government is also planning to bid out wind power contracts totalling 24.5 GW over the next two years.

“We are planning a ‘rent a rooftop’ policy,” said Kumar in his first interview after assuming charge at the ministry.

While investors have been enthused by India’s large ground-mounted, grid-connected solar parks, the solar rooftop market hasn’t gained much traction. “We are now trying to work out a new programme called ‘rent a roof,’ wherein the developer will take rooftops on rent and will offer lease to each household, and then feed the power to the grid,” added Kumar.

Of India’s ambitious target of 175GW of clean energy capacity by 2022, 100GW is to come from solar projects. Of these, while 60GW is targeted from ground-mounted, grid-connected projects, 40GW is to come from solar rooftop projects. Wind power projects are to contribute 60GW.

Such a policy comes in the backdrop of India’s nascent net-metering market. In a net-metering system, a consumer is only billed for the electricity consumed after deducting the power generated from one’s solar rooftop panels that is supplied to the grid.

The country offers a big opportunity given its 750GW potential as it records around 300 sunny days a year, with an average solar radiation range of 4-7 kilowatt-hours per square metre.

“Under ‘rent a roof’, anyone can take a roof. Right now, net metering is happening but it is for the individual household to go for it on its own. After this, all the responsibilities such as maintenance will be with the developer. We are working on the policy,” Kumar said.

For India’s solar power targets to be met, the rooftop piece will have to take off. However, there are concerns as India is not expected to achieve even half of the solar rooftop targets by December 2021, according to consulting firm Bridge To India.

Also, a parliamentary panel has said that the 40GW target of grid-connected rooftop solar by 2022 is “unrealistic”, Mint reported on 1 August.

“We are doing it precisely for the same reason. Rooftops also are of small sizes. It is happening in educational institutions and at other places but is not happening at the household level,” Kumar said.

The industry welcomed the move. “We welcome the ‘rent a roof’ policy by the government wholeheartedly. This will empower the solar energy industry to penetrate at the grassroots level and give every home a chance to be energy independent. However, it is essential that the government defines the framework clearly as there would be many stakeholders involved in the process,” said Anmol Singh Jaggi, director at Gensol Group, a solar advisory firm.

India’s green energy play is expected to grow substantively with federal policy think tank NITI Aayog projecting 597-710 GW capacity by 2040 in its new draft energy policy.

The central government is also firming up its strategy to expedite bidding out wind power contracts. India has an installed wind power capacity of 33GW. The country has auctioned 2GW of wind power contracts that saw tariffs fall to a record low of Rs2.64 per unit in the October auction conducted by state-run Solar Energy Corp. of India.

“States will be bidding out around 500 megawatts (MW). In addition, we will be bidding out around 4,500MW by March. It will be followed by bids for 10GW next year followed by another 10GW in the year after. So, by March 2020, we want to finish our bidding so that we are able to achieve our target by March 2022,” Kumar said.

This is in sync with India’s plan to invite bids for setting up 20GW of solar power capacity, the world’s largest solar tender, at one go, as Mintreported on 10 November.

“So, whatever additional capacity we plan to have over and above this 60GW (of wind power) will come in the offshore. We will try to do more than 60GW. This will also provide an impetus to our local manufacturing industry. We would like to strengthen our manufacturing base,” said Kumar.

 

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