Towards a Clean, Green Energy Future
Declared as the most polluted city in the world last winter, Gurugram will have to take several multi-pronged steps to improve its air quality. One relatively easier step it can take is to switch to solar. Relatively easier because along with reducing reliance on polluting gensets, this clean, smoke-free electricity also brings commercial gains via reduction in electricity bills, making it a complete win-win solution. With progressive solar policies of Haryana to tap into, presence of large buildings, more than 300 bright, sunny days and the presence of International Solar Alliance as well as the National Institute of Solar Energy (on the Gurugram-Faridabad road), Gurugram is quite ideally placed to become a solar city.
The good news is about 40 MW of solar rooftops has already been installed in the city; up from 25 MW 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; but just about 150 MW has been installed in the state so far. The potential is huge; there are rooftops of individual households, housing complexes, hotels, hospitals, shopping malls, guest houses, schools, colleges and other institutions, office buildings, commercial complexes, and industries. However, it will be adoption at the household and the housing complexes (RWA) level that will truly make Gurugram a solar city. With an installation of 350 kwp of solar power, Wellington RWA in DLF Phase V has become the largest RWA solar installation in Haryana. Atleast five more residential complexes – Hewo Apartment-I, Maple Heights, Davinder Vihar, DLF Icon and Bestech Park View Residency – have also solarised.
The not-so-good news is that as solar becomes popular the 30 per cent subsidies 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 solar panel costs, and the declining payback periods, rest be assured that there is every merit in switching to solar even without subsidies. Consider this. Payback periods are now as low as four years with subsidy and six years without subsidy which means that one can recover cost within this period and subsequently enjoy free gains in electricity bills for the next 19-20 years easily, since the life of solar panels is about 25 years.
The real “game changer” in making solar economical has been the provision of net metering. A solar installer becomes a “prosumer” i.e. producer and consumer of electricity using the solar 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. To be sure, if his rooftop production is more than what he needs, the extra energy can be “banked” into 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 from DHBVNL which is charged at a pre-determined tariff rate of the distribution company.
Haryana may not be a frontrunner solar state like Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh or neighbouring Rajasthan but it has a very attractive solar policy and net metering policy. Here are some of the reasons. One, the prosumer in Haryana can install a system of the capacity matching his sanctioned load. The net metering policyof 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 per unit electricity rates. Besides, as per an order in October 2018, solar users in Haryana can claim a rebate – Rs. 1 per unit for every unit of electricity generated from solar energy. Another Rs. 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. Besides, a regulatory mandate require all new buildings to install solar. Haryana Building Code 2017 gives benefit of additional floor area ratio depending on the system size.
Despite these policies, the solar rooftop penetration in Gurugram is still low. There are concerns of high upfront costs (Rs 50,000- Rs 1,00,000 per kwh), techno-commercial risks, complicated procedures and the time and effort needed to deal with vendors and agencies such as Haryana Renewable Energy Department (HAREDA) – for subsidy – and DHBVNL -for net metering. Potential customers are always looking for hand-holding to guide them on issues of selecting the right vendor and deciding the right size of the project. Greater public awareness can help gain confidence and alleviate these concerns. Solar needs to be viewed as a commodity just like mobile phones. Besides, innovative financing schemes by banks, and greater flexibility in structuring and securitising projects can help. A lot more ground can be covered if the two main agencies involved, HAREDA and DHBVNL show greater agility and focus.
Solarising can not only reduce electricity bills but can also make a dent in controlling Gurugram’s rising pollution. Think of this -those who produce solar and pass electricity into the grid are actually reducing reliance on conventional energy, reducing their carbon footprint and also in a way contributing to nation building! Let us tap the good sun on our rooftops for a clean and green future.