The Ministry of New and Renewable Energy (MNRE) has issued the final guidelines for the setting up of off-grid solar power plants under the renewable energy service company (RESCO) model. The draft guidelines were issued in May 2020. These guidelines have been released as the MNRE has extended Phase III of the Off-grid Solar Photovoltaic Applications Programme to March 31, 2021. Under the extended scheme, off-grid solar parks will be installed only under the RESCO model and only in the northeastern states. Also, a central financial assistance (CFA) will be available for up to 90 per cent of the benchmark cost.
The off-grid solar programme is one of the oldest programmes of the MNRE aimed at providing solar PV-based applications in areas where grid power is either not available or is unreliable. Applications such as solar home lighting systems, solar street lighting systems, solar power plants, solar pumps, solar lanterns and solar study lamps are covered under the programme. Under Phase III of the programme, off-grid solar power plants of individual size up to 25 kW can be installed in areas where grid power has not reached or is not reliable. Such plants are aimed at providing electricity to government schools, hostels, panchayats, police stations and other public service institutions. The systems will be operated under the RESCO model to ensure their proper repair and maintenance and promote operational efficiency.
Under the capital expenditure model, off-grid solar power plants are guaranteed for 5 years by the vendors. However, Under the RESCO model the MNRE has proposed that the vendor will install and operate the solar power plant of capacity up to 10 kWp for at least 10 years and solar PV plants of capacity above 10 kWp for at least 15 years. This will increase the guarantee period.