‘Surge ‘in Residential Rooftop Solar in NCR: The Alternative Reality Of Delhi Discoms

‘Surge ‘in Residential Rooftop Solar in NCR: The Alternative Reality Of Delhi Discoms

Discoms in Delhi claim they are witnessing a ‘surge’ in the residential rooftop solar segment, with more than ‘1900 net metering’ connections installed in recent years.

Irony just found a new supporter. The Delhi discoms. According to them, barely 1900 solar rooftop connections in the past three years count as a ‘surge’ in solar rooftop adoption. Of course, this makes sense if you consider the low base of solar rooftop in NCR region. But beyond that, the reality could not be further from the truth.

 The BSES Discoms have claimed that they have so far energised over 2,700 solar net metering connections in the city, with the highest number of rooftop solar connections in the residential segment (1,526) followed by educational (581) and commercial (473) segments, an official spokesperson said.

Media reports quoted the said officials claiming that “An analysis of the data shows that the highest number of rooftop solar net metering connections is in the domestic segment. In fact, the rooftop solar connection is a big hit among the central government housing society (CGHS) segment wherein around 90 societies and apartment complexes have opted for it with a sanctioned load of over 5 MWp,” he added. 5 MWp. Let that number sink in, especially when compared with Delhi’s declared target for 2019; The Delhi Solar Energy Policy (2016) says: “Delhi established solar generation targets of 1 GW (1000 MW) by 2020 (4.2% of energy consumed) and 2 GW (2000 MW) by 2025 (6.6% of energy consumed).”

The Delhi Electricity Regulatory Commission (DERC) had issued regulations on net metering for renewable energy in September 2014. The regulations allow registered customers of Discoms to install renewable energy systems and the Discoms will allow connectivity of these systems to their network through net meters. In solar net metering systems, the consumers can sell the surplus electricity after consumption and get paid (in the form of rebates) by the Discoms.

Tata Power Delhi Distribution Limited (TPDDL), the other prominent power distributor in the region stated that the ‘surge’ in the domestic (residential) sector in this regard has been visible since 2017.

“The surge in the domestic count can be observed since 2017, which is credited to the Ministry of New and Renewable Energy (MNRE) subsidy scheme in Phase-I under which a customer is entitled to flat 30 percent subsidy on solar plant cost,” a TPDDL spokesperson said.

That’s fine lip service indeed, considering how difficult all the city discoms have made the installation of solar rooftop.

TPDDL has so far installed nearly 1,000 rooftop solar net metering connections. In 2019-20, a total of 374 rooftop solar net metering customers were added that included 245 in domestic category, the spokesperson said. The current cumulative installed capacity is 33.7 MW which is intended to be increased to 40 MW in the next two years, he added.A pitifully small number in the larger context of both potential, and possibility in the region.

A BSES spokesperson went so far as to call the rooftop solar net metering response “incredibly encouraging” and consumers across categories have warmed up to the concept in a big way. The BSES Discoms — BRPL (2,197 connections) and BYPL (541 connections) — have a total 88 MWp solar load at present. In the current year (FY 2020-21), the two Discoms are likely to energise around 1,000 rooftop solar connections, he added.

“BSES has energised rooftop net metering connections ranging from a sanctioned load of 1 KW to over 1,600 KW. Consumers have begun to see the benefits of rooftop solar net metering and how it reduces their electricity bills. This is reflected in the varied consumer mix,” the official said.

If the annual savings accruing to consumers in different segments are analysed, they are saving over Rs 62 crore annually, he said. “Every KW of rooftop solar generates about 100 to 120 units of electricity every month and the cost of the system can be recovered within 3.5 to 4 years,” the official said.

With the largest chunk of solar rooftops accounted by government buildings and institutions, including the state government’s own push to have it on government schools, the road ahead for solar rooftop needs far more than a surge as described by the discoms. It needs clear rules, an approval timeline process that needs to be halved or more from the current 2 months plus with no certain outcome, and a real will among the discoms, enforced with penalties that make a difference.

At Saurenergy, we have interactions on record with multiple rooftop owners who gave up on the process due to delays, poor communication of benefits, and an unresponsive admin.  Solar vendors who have been involved with the city’s rooftop programmes, be it startups like Zunroof, or Amplus right now, if they do agree to speak, can offer very interesting numbers on their conversion rate, or the time taken to go from interest to energising a rooftop connection.

Even as we write this, we have two documented cases where the owners claim that over two months have elapsed with no signs of installation, as they still going through the rigours of ‘paperwork with the city Discoms.

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Ayush Verma

Ayush is a staff writer at saurenergy.com and writes on renewable energy with a special focus on solar and wind. Prior to this, as an engineering graduate trying to find his niche in the energy journalism segment, he worked as a correspondent for iamrenew.com.