Over 1,800 solar rooftop projects, but only 126 MW power

While the number of applications is high, the capacity of the projects commissioned is low, say Bescom officials

Four years after having started the solar rooftop scheme, Bengaluru has been able to notch projects with a capacity of a little over 100 MW.

According to Bangalore Electricity Supply Company (Bescom), so far, 1,892 solar rooftop projects have been commissioned, totalling to a capacity of 126.04 MW. Bescom officials maintained that the number of applications are fairly high, but the capacity of the projects commissioned is low. While 70% of the applications for these projects has been from domestic consumers, a majority of the power to be generated from the projects is from commercial and industrial consumers. This is because the capacity of solar rooftop projects cannot be more than the sanctioned load of the consumer, an official explained.

However, the numbers so far, are a far cry from the target set in Karnataka’s Solar Policy 2014–21. It has set a target of 6,000-MW solar projects, of which grid-connected rooftop generation projects will be 2,400 MW.

More incentives

Taking note of the poor response to the rooftop scheme, Karnataka Electricity Regulatory Commission (KERC) had recently revised tariffs to favour domestic consumers. Tariffs for grid-connected solar rooftop photovoltaic (SRTPV) projects of 1 kW to 10 kW for domestic consumers was fixed at ₹3.99 a unit without capital subsidy and ₹2.97 a unit with subsidy.

The KERC’s tariff order said that as on December 31, 2018, the State’s installed solar power generation capacity was 5,329 MW, including grid-connected ground-mounted plants and rooftop plants. But the capacity of the SRTPV plants was just 154 MW, a bulk of which is large projects. This indicated that smaller consumers, especially domestic consumers, had not shown much interest to install SRTPV plants on their rooftops despite the potential being large, owing to the low feed-in tariff fixed by the commission as compared with the relatively higher capital cost of smaller capacity SRTPV plants, the tariff order had said.

Different models to boost rooftop generation

With increasing focus on clean energy, different measures from various agencies are being initiated to boost energy produced from rooftop solar plants.

For instance, Karnataka Electricity Regulatory Commission (KERC) recently held a public hearing to finalise issues and determine tariffs for solar photovoltaic plants to be installed on rooftops of consumers by a third party under different business models.

According to the commission’s earlier discussion paper on the issue, third-party investments in solar rooftop photovoltaic (SRTPV) projects will accelerate capacity addition. Under the scheme, the third-party investor/developer will set up, own, and operate the plant on the consumer’s premises for a mutually agreed period and sell the electricity generated to the owners of the rooftop at a predetermined tariff. Registered consumers will be allowed to sell surplus energy to the Escoms at a separate tariff to be determined by the commission.

In addition, Bangalore Electricity Supply Company (Bescom) officials said the power utility has already piloted LiDAR (Light Detection and Ranging) project, which maps the rooftop potential in the city. High-resolution aerial imagery captured through LiDAR is used to create virtual 3D maps of the area, which are then used to calculate the solar potential on each roof after considering shading aspects created by neighbouring obstacles such as trees, buildings, poles, etc.

The cost of installing SRTPV plants had also dropped. “For example, for a 1-kw plant on 100 sq. ft, the cost for the panel, inverter, meter, and cable would come up to around ₹40,000 now. It was almost ₹1 lakh in 2013,” an official explained.

The power utility has simplified the process to apply for a rooftop project, and made all major eight processes — up to commissioning of the plant — online, the official added.

Officials added that the subsidy announced for residential rooftop projects by the Ministry of Renewable Energy should encourage more consumers to install solar rooftop plants.

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