Hope Rules Over Policy as PM Modi Harks to 40 GW Rooftop Solar by 2022

Hope Rules Over Policy as PM Modi Harks to 40 GW Rooftop Solar by 2022

If there was ever a case of hope triumphing policy for India’s struggling rooftop solar sector, then PM Modi’s statement on the country reaching 40 GW of rooftop solar by 2022 must come as a massive boost. Or maybe the industry is simply smarter than that. For out of the 100 GW solar target for 2022, where rooftop solar was to account for 40 GW, it is the utility space that seems set to achieve its 60 GW number and more, rather than rooftop getting anywhere close to its target.

For quite simply, the 40 GW number has been all but shelved by every arm of the government that matters, from the Power Ministry to the MNRE to officials pronouncing on the sector’s future. And they have done it with good reason. A combination of factors has ensured that solar rooftop never quite took off as utility solar did, and despite ‘dream’ conditions for a boom for the past year, in the form of pent up demand as well as lower prices (and hence lower subsidy costs),  the numbers simply haven’t moved much. The factors dragging it down have ranged from discom apathy (which deserves detailed articles for the many ways discoms have found to stifle it), open-access policies, DCR rules, subsidy payout processes, and finally, financing of course.

It’s interesting that on the same day as the PM mentioned the massive 40 GW number after a couple of years, MSME minister Nitin Gadkari chose to write to his colleague and MNRE and Power Minister, R.K. Singh on the latest policy shift that has hurt rooftop prospects.

While writing specifically to highlight the plight of integrators in the Vidarbha region in his home state of Maharashtra, Gadkari spoke for integrators across almost every key ‘solar’ state when he stated that the recent notification on limiting net metering to projects of 10 KW and below would hurt the sector very badly. The C&I segment, where most installations are over 10 KW, is set to be hit most by this step.

While net metering allows grid-connected solar rooftop plant owners to supply and receive power from discoms through the same meter and pay only for extra units consumed, under the gross metering norms for plants over 10 KW now, power sold back to discoms is usually at a far lower rate than what it is brought for from the same discoms.

In his letter to Power Minister Singh, Gadkari has highlighted that the move would discourage MSME firms from going for solar, at a time many were keen on it.

Many state discoms have already made a push to selectively pick the matter of 10 KW  limits even as they ignore other key recommendations made in the same notification on rules for power consumers. As expected.

Now that PM Modi has announced the 40 GW target yet again, one can only hope that there is a new resolve and plans to get there, and not just a speechwriter’s mistake of rehashing the original target number, without quite realising that this particular target is close to impossible to achieve now.  If there is a plan, it could only be excellent news for the thousands of solar installers, and Indian manufacturers who stand to benefit from a new push.

Of course, we would not be surprised if numbers achieved under the PM KUSUM scheme by 2022 for instance, are eventually counted under this number, even though the PM mentioned that 30 GW figure separately in the same speech.

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Prasanna Singh

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