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Delhi can learn from Germany’s solar experience to become power surplus

india Updated: May 16, 2015 23:04 IST
Chetan Chauhan
Chetan Chauhan
Hindustan Times
use of solar energy

Can Delhiites be paid for consuming power? May be, that is if the national capital is able to implement solar rooftops in homes as Germany has in the past 20 years and can move from being a power deficient to a power surplus state.

Germany was one of the first countries to allow grid-connected solar rooftops by the way of feed in tariff, which meant that people got more money for the green power they generated than the power they consumed. Feed in tariff is the money from solar power generator gets credited into a resident’s electricity bill by the power distributor (discom) for each unit of electricity generated.

Feed in tariff is valued at slightly higher than the average price the consumer pays for per unit power consumed.

According to the policy, the house owners have been assured higher rates for 20 years and such a policy has resulted in Germany now having over a million homes generating power, which accounts for over 80% of solar power generated in the country. Such a boost has enabled Germany to decide a roadmap to shun nuclear power in the next 20 years and reduce dependence on coal.

The push for solar rooftops has caused the green tariff to nosedive and now it is less than any other energy source in one of the most developed nations of the world.

The reason for this does not lie in Germany but in far-off China and India that up-scaled its solar energy targets triggering massive demand and pushing the prices down. A clear impact was visible in many European countries like Germany. “In 2014, we literally gave money to people to consume power for about 10 hours,” said Christian Redl of Agora Energiewende, a Berlin based energy think tank. “The way we are generating RE power and becoming energy efficient the possibility of people getting money for consuming powers will be higher.”

The lesson for Delhi from the German experience is that though the initial cost of solar energy system is high because of installation charges, it gets cheaper than any other source of power in the longer run.

“Cost of your nuclear, coal or lignite power will increase but cost of solar power only becomes less. That is the advantage of investing in renewables although it still has some technological issues that need to be looked into,” said R Andreas Kreamer, founder of Ecologic Institute, a 20-year-old think on ecological issues.

But, to make Delhi a power surplus state that produces cheaper power, the government will have to make financing solar powered homes possible as Germany did. German banks provide long term (15 to 20 year) loans to install a solar roof top that covers over 90% of the cost.

“It has provided a business model for homes and has worked wonders here,” said Carel Mohn of Clean Energy Wire. None of the Indian banks have yet come up with a scheme to finance solar rooftops.

Delhi has a potential to generate over 30,000MW of power annually — five times its present demand — if just one-third of its homes install some solar photo voltaic, an assessment by the ministry of new and renewable energy says.Experts, also, warn that Delhi should not repeat the mistakes that Germany committed; higher tariff for solar power for a long period and very less market intervention that did not allow solar power to be traded separately. “The net metering rates should be revised on annual basis and should be applicable to earlier contracts also,” Kreamer said.But, there is consensus that net metering concept can revolutionise solar penetration in sun rich nations like India.