Rooftop solar: Still way out of reach

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Context:

  • The finance ministry’s recent decision to levy 25% safeguard duty on solar equipment is likely to raise solar power tariffs and affect offtake.
  • Power minister has reportedly assured project developers that the Centre would amend bidding rules to allow pass through of the import duty hike, but uncertainties remain.
  • There’s a lack of clarity on GST on solar panels too. We do not need taxes and duties to jeopardise solar power; bureaucratic inertia already doing a good job.

100 GW target by 2022:

  • The government’s target is to set up 100 GW of solar power capacity nationally by 2022, with 40 GW to come up on rooftops.

Progress:

  • Solar Energy Corporation of India (SECI), the nodal agency in charge of the National Solar Mission, has been able to smartly bring down tariffs for solar power projects to as low as Rs 2.44 per unit. But there’s hardly any progress in the solar rooftop plan. Barely 1 GW of rooftop power capacity has come up.

The Way Ahead:

  • The way ahead is to have institutional channel partners to rev up rooftop capacity. Experts opine that India has a solar rooftop power potential of up to 400 GW. What is missing is well-thought-through policy specifically for rooftop capacity. It would even make sense to have a leasing plan for battery packs for rooftop solar plants, to proactively bring down the sunk costs.
  • Also, we need to boost the demand for solar rooftop capacity. For instance, the possibility of making it attractive to routinely recharge, say, phones, computers and household inverters with solar rooftop power needs to be actively explored.
  • It can lead to other usages, such as running ACs or even charging electric vehicles, including two-wheelers. New gadgets like solar induction cookers do need to be commercialised to gainfully step-up demand for solar rooftop panels. Holistic regulation will need to attend on the power sector, to enable all this.