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Developers seek change in Gujarat solar policy
Solar developers have petitioned Gujarat’s power regulator seeking a change in its solar policy, pointing out a major lacuna which is impeding the growth of solar rooftop capacity in the state. The policy permits only house owners themselves to set up solar plants on their roofs and is a barrier to leasing of roofs to solar developers.
Though Gujarat was a pioneer among Indian states in promoting solar energy, the petition from the Distributed Solar Power Association (DISPA), a newly formed group of developers specialising in rooftop solar plants, notes that unlike most other states, Gujarat offers net metering and other incentives only to house owners setting up solar rooftop plants, and not to solar developers.
Net metering is the setting up of a system by which consumers can generate their own electricity and sell the surplus to the discom from which they were buying power earlier.
The Gujarat Electricity Regulatory Commission’s ‘Net Metering Rooftop Solar PV Grid Interactive Systems Regulations, 2016’, define an eligible consumer as “a consumer of electricity ...who intends to use a Rooftop Solar PV System, given that such system is self-owned, to offset part or all of the consumer’s own electrical requirements.”
The petition points out that many house owners willing to set up solar rooftop plants may not actually do so as they would not know how to go about it, as well as being deterred by “the high upfront cost of installing the plant, the limited financing schemes from banks and the highly volatile market”. If, however, they could lease out their roofs and profit from doing so, they would gladly do it.
“The Third Party Model permits experts in the field to set up the solar plants on the available roof-tops. At the same time, the expert developers are protected against incurring high real estate costs,” the petition says. It notes that in numerous other countries such as the US, Germany and Japan “the leasing model has been the driving force of the rooftop solar market”.
While India’s ground mounted solar energy programme has been advancing aggressively with 13,115 MW installed as of end-June, the rooftop programme is foundering. According to a report by solar consultancy Bridge to India, the country’s total solar rooftop capacity was barely 1,396 MW at the end of 2016-17, way short of the national target of 40,000 MW by 2022. Gujarat had installed a mere 87 MW, well behind a number of other states.
“There is an immediate need to incentivise/promote the installation of rooftop solar plants,” the petition notes.