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Solar energy can help citizens cut power bills, fight pollution

Progressive solar policies, more than 300 days of sunshine, rebate by the state government are some of the factors that make Haryana ideal for becoming a front runner in solar energy.

gurgaon Updated: Jun 25, 2019 11:53 IST
Shubhra Puri
Shubhra Puri
Haryana may not be a front-runner in solar power as compared to states like Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh or even the neighbouring Rajasthan, but it has a very attractive solar policy and net-metering policy. Image used for representative purpose only. (Bloomberg file photo)

Declared as the most polluted city in the world last winter, Gurugram will have to take multi-pronged steps to improve its air quality. One relatively easier step it can take is to switch to solar energy. This option is relatively easier because, along with reducing the reliance on polluting gensets, this clean, smoke-free source of energy can also bring commercial gains via the reduction in electricity bills. With the introduction of progressive solar policies of Haryana, presence of large buildings, more than 300 sunny days and the presence of International Solar Alliance as well as the National Institute of Solar Energy, Gurugram is quite ideally placed to become a solar-powered city.

The good news is that about 40MW of solar rooftops have already been installed in the city, up from 25MW achieved till last year. With concerted efforts, the city can easily become a 200-MW solar rooftop city by 2022. Haryana is targeting to add 1,600-MW solar rooftops by 2022. However, only 150-MW rooftops have been installed in the state so far. The potential is huge. However, it is only when households and residential complexes start adopting solar power that the Gurugram would truly become a solar city.

With the installation of 350 kwp of solar power, Wellington RWA in DLF-5 has become the largest RWA solar installation in Haryana. At least five more residential complexes, Hewo Apartment-i, Maple Heights, Davinder Vihar, DLF Icon and Bestech Park View Residency, have also been solarised.

The not-so-good news is that as solar becomes popular, the 30% subsidy that some solar installers enjoy may soon become a thing of the past. The subsidy will be removed first for institutions such as schools, NGOS etc and then for the households. But with falling costs of solar panel costs and the declining payback periods, there is every merit in switching to solar energy even without subsidies. Consider this. Payback periods are now as low as four years with subsidy and six years without subsidy. This means that one can recover the cost within this period and subsequently enjoy free gains in electricity bills for the next 19-20 years easily, as the life of solar panels is about 25 years.

The real “game changer” in making solar energy economical has been the provision of net metering. A solar installer becomes a “prosumer” i.e. both producer and consumer of electricity, using the solar energy produced at his rooftop, and feeding the surplus produced into the grid. Through a bi-directional net meter, electricity can be both taken from and be given back to the grid, and the consumer only pays for the net electricity drawn from the grid. If his rooftop production is more than what he needs, the extra energy can be “banked” in the grid, with the distribution company, Dakshin Haryana Bijli Vitran Limited (DHBVNL), and can be drawn back over a period of a year. If his rooftop production is less than what he needs, he only draws the deficit amount from DHBVNL that is charged at a predetermined tariff rate by the distribution company.

Haryana may not be a front-runner in solar power as compared to states like Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh or even the neighbouring Rajasthan, but it has a very attractive solar policy and net-metering policy. The prosumer in Haryana can install a system of the capacity that matches his sanctioned load. The net metering policy of Haryana allows the solar installers to export solar electricity at the “same price” at which he buys conventional power from the grid. Since, consumer’s consumption from the grid reduces due to switching to solar, the consumer shifts to a lower slab in the tariff rate card, and lower slabs ensure lower electricity rates. Besides, as per an order in October 2018, solar users in Haryana can claim a rebate — ₹1 per unit for every unit of electricity generated from solar energy. Another ₹1 per unit is available for those with battery back-up, which is a slightly expensive system. This rebate is on the gross amount of solar installed at the end of the financial year.

Despite these policies, the solar rooftop penetration in Gurugram is still low. There are concerns of high upfront costs (₹50,000- ₹1, 00,000 per kwh), techno-commercial risks, complicated procedures, and lack of time and effort needed to deal with vendors and agencies such as Haryana Renewable Energy Department (HAREDA), for the subsidy, and DHBVNL, for net metering. Greater public awareness can help gain consumers to gain confidence. Solar needs to be viewed as a commodity just like mobile phones. Besides, innovative financing schemes by banks are needed. The HAREDA and the DHBVNL must show greater agility and focus.

Solarising not only reduces electricity bills but also control rising pollution. Those who produce solar and pass electricity into the grid are actually reducing the reliance on conventional energy, reducing their carbon footprint and contributing to nation building! Let us tap the good sun on our rooftops for a clean and green future.

(The author is the founder of Gurgaon First, a citizen initiative to promote sustainability in Gurugram through workshops and research books.)

First Published: Jun 25, 2019 11:53 IST