Bengal Finally Opens Up Net Metering For Homes, With 5 KW Limit

West Bengal, a perennial laggard on the renewable energy front, and a huge defender of coal fired energy to boot, has finally started taking its first tentative steps towards more renewable energy. The West Bengal Electricity Regulatory Commission (WBERC) has finally allowed net metering for individual households from 1 KW, upto a limit of 5 kw. Earlier, residential category was kept out of net metering purview altogether, with only institutional, commercial, industrial and cooperative housing allowed the benefit of net metering, again with a 5 KW limit.

Among large states in India, West Bengal has the worst record on meeting its renewable purchase obligations (RPO), at less than 5 percent of targets. Worst, the state if among the higher users of ‘dirty coal’ in power plants located inside the state, as per a study by the Centre For Science and Environment

The WBERC in its recent amendments to the Cogeneration and Electricity Generation from Renewable Sources Regulations 2013 had allowed net metering for individual households from 1 KW but had restricted it to 5 KW. All sanctions over 5 KW came with gross metering, something that served to stifle any possible uptake at a large scale effectively. The few solar plants that have been made for over 5 KW have usually been for captive consumption so far in the state.

Allowing net metering for residential category is a good move, although it remains to be seen if it has any significant impact, considering the other conditions. For instance, the state has retained the condition of sanctions equal to or less than original load sanction for a house.  Under the net metering rules, the state has allowed set-off of up to 90 per cent of solar power generation for any month. Plus, all such energy will count towards the RPO of a distribution licensee of course. The state has a target of 3 percent from solar energy for 2020-21.

The state’s move follows the move by the Ministry of Power last month to limit net metering to 10 KW for all cases, something that has been met with wide resistance from industry and solar bodies. As feared, state regulators have been happy to pick the most ‘convenient’ aspects of the proposed rules, while ignoring more stringent requirements.

Another new clause in the new WB rules says that purchase of renewable power through open access will occur at a mutually agreed price or through power exchange at a market price determined by the Solar Energy Corporation of India (SECI), instead of the capping price laid down by the regulator.

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Prasanna Singh

Prasanna Singh

Prasanna has been a media professional for over 20 years. He is the Group Editor of Saur Energy International

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