SURAT INDIA’S LEADING ‘SMART– SOLAR CITY’
I n its ‘Intended Nationally Determined Contribution’ (INDC) to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), post the 21st Conference of Parties (COP21) held in Paris in 2015; India declared a voluntary goal of reducing the emissions intensity of its GDP by 33–35%, over 2005 levels, by 2030, despite having no binding mitigation obligations as per the Convention. A slew of policy measures were launched to achieve this goal. The National Solar Mission (NSM) received a thrust with the achievable target being increased from 20 GW to 100 GW of installed solar capacity by the year 2022. The target is intended to be met through 40 GW of rooftop solar projects and 60 GW of large- and medium-scale gridconnected projects.
Moreover, with a vision to reduce the Green House Gas (GHG) emissions and to propel the nation towards ‘energy sufficiency’, a list of 60 solar cities was issued by the Ministry of New and Renewable Energy (MNRE), under the Government of India’s ‘Development of Solar Cities’ programme which is designed to support/encourage urban local bodies to prepare a roadmap to guide their cities in becoming ‘renewable energy cities’ or ‘solar cities’. Likewise, with the objective of promoting the cities that provide core infrastructure and give a decent quality of life to its citizens, a clean and sustainable environment, and application of ‘smart’ solutions; the Government of India launched the ‘Smart Cities Mission’ in 2015. Under the mission, the Ministry of Urban Development (MoUD) identified total 100 smart cities distributed amongst various states of the country. As per the smart city guidelines, issued by the Government of India, at least 10% of the smart city’s energy requirement should be met by solar power. The city of Surat, in the state of Gujarat, is amongst one of the few cities in India which have bagged the prestigious spot in both the aforementioned lists of model Indian cities issued respectively by MNRE and MoUD.
Consequently, the Surat Municipal Corporation (SMC) has been pro-actively taking measures to meet the expectations in the field of renewable energy. Surat Municipal Corporation is a local selfgovernment body which came into being under the Bombay Provincial Municipal Act, 1949. It carries out all the obligatory functions and discretionary functions entrusted by the BPMC Act, 1949.
At the root of Surat city’s success story lies the Gujarat Government’s strong will for development and a concrete and systematic plan of action for achieving the Surat city’s goals and expectations related to solar power. Initially, the SMC signed a MoU with the Solar Energy Corporation of India (SECI), in order to facilitate the implementation of solar rooftop scheme in Surat city. The SMC planned its roadmap to success in consultation with various stakeholders such as the DISCOMs, State Nodal Agencies, Chief Electrical Inspector, Project Developers, Banks, etc. Moreover, the SMC sought the project management consultancy services of The Energy and Resources Institute (TERI),New Delhi, for carrying out feasibility studies and monitoring the implementation of various solar and energy efficiency projects in the city. As estimated by TERI, the rooftop potential of 11,924 MW is found to be distributed amongst various smart cities of the country; of which nearly 418 MW (~3.5%) exists in the city of Surat. The SMC has taken numerous initiatives in order to harness this substantial solar resource available in the city. TERI has been actively participating with SMC in planning and execution of various projects for increased and improvised utilization of the city’s solar potential.
The ‘Solar Revolution’ under SMC was kick started by the launch of Solar Rooftop program on the September 22, 2016; which is now also celebrated as the “Solar Equinox Day: A Mega Event on Rooftop Solar Energy for Surat Smart City”. It was on this occasion that the “#SuratSolar” brand was launched under which the “SuratSolar” website (“http://suratsolar.suratmunicipal.gov. in/”) and mobile application (“https:// play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=in. smc.suratsolar&hl=en”) were introduced for ease of outreach to the common man, in order to create awareness and encouragement for installing Grid Connected Rooftop (GCRT) system. The website and mobile app act as a ‘single window portal’ for information dissemination, and for consolidation of interest/applications received for solar rooftop installation. Handouts and pamphlets are also distributed, every year, on the ‘Solar Equinox Day’ to promote widespread utilization of solar power. The rooftop solar programme has received great support from the regional political and public figures. The Hon’ble Mayor – Surat City appointed a team of 200 ‘Solar Friends’ for spreading awareness regarding GCRT systems. This resulted in organization of various workshops on ‘Advantages of GCRT systems and Net Metering’ for the common public. Effective mass publicity was also carried out through various means, such as National/Regional Newspapers, Social Media (e.g. Facebook (@SuratSolar), Twitter [@RooftopSolarSMC] etc.), FM Radio, public hoardings, and standees, etc. Video messages to adopt rooftop solar were also propagated in 22 Indian languages by 22 brand ambassadors consisting of various social figures, such as MPs, MLAs, etc.
Looking at the city’s pro-active and fast paced progress in deployment of GCRT systems, the Gujarat Energy Development Authority (GEDA) declared the SMC as the nodal agency for receiving all the applications regarding installation of GCRT in Surat city, which are then forwarded to GEDA in Gandhinagar. Unlike Surat, residents of all other cities in Gujarat need to directly approach GEDA in Gandhinagar in order to seek approval for installation of solar power plants. In addition to the subsidy of Rs20,700 per kWp offered by MNRE, GEDA also provides a subsidy of Rs10,000 kWp with a maximum limit of Rs20,000 per consumer. Moreover, as per the state regulations, earlier, the solar power plants having installed capacities only up to 50% of the sanctioned load were permitted within premises of all categories. However, in order to promote the deployment of GCRT systems, the Government of Gujarat has waved off this cap on installed capacities and have permitted the installation of solar plants with capacities up to 100% of the sanctioned load, for all the premises under ‘residential’ category. Deployment of electric vehicles is also under progress in various cities of Gujarat, to promote which the Government of Gujarat is providing subsidy of Rs10,000 only to the students studying in classes 9–12 for purchasing electric (battery operated) two-wheelers; in addition to the subsidy of Rs7,500–29,000 offered by the Central Government for batteryoperated two-wheelers under its flagship programme entitled, ‘Faster Adoption and Manufacturing of (Hybrid &) Electric Vehicles’ (FAME). Under the FAME scheme, the Central Government also offers subsidy of Rs11,000–61,000 for three-wheelers, Rs76,000–138,000 for passenger cars, and Rs102,000–187,000 for light-commercial vehicles.
All these efforts for the implementation of rooftop solar programme led to unprecedented outcomes. Surat city successfully achieved a massive GCRT installed capacity of 3.6 MWp over various government buildings under the SMC; consultancy services for which were provided by TERI. More than 3,600 applications have been received for cumulative installation of more than 15 MWp; including both residential and non-residential consumers. Of this, more than 800 installations (approx. 5 MWp) have been completed till date. But, the goals and aspirations of this throbbing city of approx. 4,466,826 individuals do not end here. The city is also in the process of converting nearly 208 schools under SMC into Model Green Schools under the ‘Green Campus Scheme’ of MNRE, by combining GCRT and energy-efficiency (EE) measures. These schools were individually surveyed by the experts’ team from TERI and a cumulative potential of nearly 3.4 MWp had been estimated. Various other ‘Smart and Innovative Projects’ in the pipeline include: demonstration of electric vehicles (EVs) and EV-charging points, installation of GCRTs on shelters for the city’s Bus Rapid Transit Service (BRTS), installation of floating PV at suitable water bodies in the city, etc. TERI has been an active partner of SMC in all these projects. Scope of EVs for three-wheelers and SMC owned vehicles in the city is being currently assessed by TERI; while as per the pre-feasibility study conducted by TERI, each BRTS shelter in Surat is estimated to have available rooftop potential of around 6.3 kWp. Also, the scope of installation of 100 kWp of grid connected floating-PV at the ‘Gopi Talao’ Lake in Surat is being investigated by TERI.
The city is also in the process of establishing a centralized system for monitoring the power generation and consumption patterns of all the solar power plants under SMC. Museums/ Eco-Parks/Renewable Energy Knowledge Centres have also been proposed to create widespread and sustained awareness regarding energy and environment amongst the common man. Till date, the Surat city has achieved total energy conservation of 75.8 GWh/Annum (34%) by deploying GCRT measures alone and 95.4 GWh/Annum (43.4%) was conserved by simultaneous deployment of GCRT and EE – Measures.
Thus, the Surat City is indeed emerging as one of the leading ‘Solar Smart Cities’ in India and is a legend in the making, which will act like a light house for all the aspiring smart cities of the country.
Article courtesy : Mr Alekhya Datta, Fellow and Mr Abhinav Jain, Associate Fellow & Area Convenor, Electricity & Fuels Division, TERI, New Delhi; Mr Jinesh Patel, Assistant Engineer and Mr K H Khatwani, Addl. City Engineer, Surat Municipal Corporation.