Growth Of Rooftop Solar In India: Opportunities, Challenges And Way Forward

* This article is a sponsored feature by Ministry of New and Renewable Energy.

India is endowed with tremendous potential to produce solar energy. Given the rising energy needs, as a nation responsible towards climate change concerns, India has set a target to achieve 100 GW power capacity through grid-connected solar energy, out of which 40 GW is estimated to come through rooftop solar installations by 2022.

Rooftop solar offers certain advantages over large solar plants as no land and additional transmission capacity is required. In addition, it saves transmission and distribution losses, which are to the tune of 30 percent. Practically one unit energy generated by rooftop solar is equivalent to 1.4 unit energy generated from large solar power plant considering 30 percent of transmission and distribution losses. If the land cost and transmission capacity expenditure are also accounted for, this ratio may further increase.

Rooftop solar projects in any country typically go through three phases. It begins with the proof of concept phase, which as the name suggests demonstrates the success of utilising such technology. This is followed by the market transformation phase, where the focus is on building capacity in the market and raising awareness about the technology. And finally, it heads to self-replication, in which enablers are reduced to a minimum and the market forces with optimised technologies lead to an increasing number of installations.

India is currently undergoing a market transformation, unleashing all possibilities to harness the power of solar energy. With breakthrough interventions from the government, solar rooftops in India continue to evolve and has witnessed a significant transformation to reach a phase where states in the country have initiated a number of steps to promote solar rooftops, these include net/gross metering regulations, notification of solar policy, ease out approval process by introducing online process, etc. With decreasing prices of solar panel, the rooftop solar has become even more promising, it is now not only cheaper than commercial and industrial power but also less than residential tariff in many states of the country. The average size of a rooftop system has increased and the credit for this goes to better utilisation of rooftop space and consumers’ willingness to use power generated from their own buildings rather than buying it from elsewhere. Increasing the adoption of quality technology will amplify the scope of rooftops in the country, thereby leading to drastic reductions in implementation costs.

Despite the opportunities, there are several challenges. For example, although there are net metering guidelines in place but because of lack of experience and maturity many distribution licensees are still working on detailed approval process for rooftop solar plants, including net-metering billing.

Recognizing the challenges being faced in the rooftop sector, the central government has now prepared single window clearance online portal with a feature to track the approval process for different agencies such as state nodal agencies, electricity distribution companies, chief electrical inspector, urban local bodies, etc. For capacity building of discoms, state nodal agencies, chief electrical inspectors, lenders, etc. special training programmes are being organized under technical assistance programs of multilateral and bilateral agencies. On the financing side, different mechanisms are being explored including the RESCO model, leasing a roof, demand aggregation, credit risk guarantee mechanism, etc.

Going forward, strengthening the opportunities and overcoming challenges will bolster investor confidence and streamline the path to achieving the 2022 target of 40 GW.