India’s solar power installations have grown rapidly over the past few years to reach almost 58 GW as of July 2022, exceeding wind power installations by a large margin. Roughly 48 GW of this installed capacity comes from utility-scale solar projects while 7 GW is contributed by rooftop solar plants. This vast difference in the installed capacities of these two solar subsegments can be partly attributed to the much larger project sizes possible in the case of utility-scale plants as compared to rooftop solar. More importantly, rooftop solar has long been a victim of delayed and often lengthy approval procedures and bureaucratic hurdles. In some states, there have been issues in getting net metering permits from utilities while in other cases subsidy disbursal has been a problem. Further, commercial and industrial rooftop solar has gained traction owing to the attractive cost economics and popularity of the opex model, but residential solar has been severely limited due to lack of awareness and high perceived costs.
To encourage the uptake of rooftop solar in the residential space, the Ministry of New and Renewable Energy (MNRE) is already implementing the Rooftop Solar Programme Phase II with an aggregate target of 4,000 MW in the residential space by 2022. The scheme was launched in March 2019 and the MNRE is providing central financial assistance at different levels to support this programme. However, the scheme has not generated the expected results. To further address the bottlenecks and streamline the process of rooftop solar installations throughout the country, the government has issued many policy directives in recent months.
Simplified procedure for residential consumers
In February 2022, the MNRE introduced a simplified procedure for residential consumers to help them install rooftop solar plants on their own or through any vendor of their choice. It proposed a national portal for registration, tracking and approval of rooftop solar applications, which will be forwarded to the concerned discoms.
The procedure notified a timeline of 15 days for the issuance of technical feasibility approval. Following this, the consumer can get the rooftop solar project installed by selecting a vendor from an empanelled list on the portal. The vendor will be responsible for maintaining the project for a minimum of five years. The rooftop solar project must be installed within a specified period, after which the consumer can apply for net metering on the portal. It is the concerned discom’s responsibility to either procure the net meter or advise the consumer to do so, and then submit a commissioning and inspection report on the national portal. The subsidy amount will be directly released in the consumer’s bank account after receiving the inspection report. In June 2022, the MNRE issued another order, which stated that vendors must register or empanel themselves with the rooftop solar beneficiaries’ discom. This measure has been taken to protect the interests of residential consumers opting for rooftop solar projects by ensuring that vendors have the requisite expertise and that they follow the MNRE’s specified standards and guidelines.
Launch of the National Portal for Rooftop Solar
In July 2022, the prime minister launched various renewable energy sector schemes and projects in the Grand Finale marking the culmination of Ujjwal Bharat Ujjwal Bhavishya – Power @2047. The National Portal for Rooftop Solar was launched formally at the event along with the launch of the Revamped Distribution Sector Scheme and laying of the foundation stone for various green energy projects of NTPC Limited.
This portal simplifies the procedure for residential consumers to apply for subsidy and get a rooftop solar system installed at their premises. Interested consumers must register with their respective discom by submitting a declaration along with a PBG amount of Rs 250,000. To further ease the process for consumers, rooftop solar vendors will provide their information and rates on the portal, allowing consumers to contact the vendor of their choice directly, negotiate the rates for rooftop solar installation and get the project deployed. Further, the portal will allow consumers to track the entire process, from registration of the application to release of subsidy in the consumer’s bank account. The subsidy rate will be common across the country and will be based on the project capacity rather than benchmark costs. Further, disbursal of the subsidy in the consumer’s account will take just 30 days.
As per government estimates, this programme is expected to benefit more than 1 million residences by reducing their power bills. On a large scale, this programme will help significantly increase the country’s rooftop solar capacity, thereby helping accelerate its green energy transition journey.