BSES, partner suggest bill-based financing of rooftop solar projects

Households owning rooftop solar systems could save up to 95 per cent on their electricity bills, according to an independent study by Council on Energy, Environment and Water (CEEW) and BSES Yamuna Power Limited .

Solar system costs have declined by 27 per cent, year-on-year, over the last three years, making rooftop solar a lucrative investment for commercial and industrial consumers, the study found.

However, despite a 30 per cent government subsidy, households have installed only about 400 MW of rooftop solar across the country (and 60 MW in Delhi).

Key challenges for residential consumers include high capital cost, lack of access to finance, lack of consumer awareness, issues with roof ownership and access, and a roof lock-in period of 25 years, according to the report released at the CEEW Renewable Energy Dialogue 2018.

Even if the rooftop solar installation on a flat, and managed by the community, it could also save up to 35 per cent of the electricity bills. The savings have been estimated over the 25-year lifetime of these systems, the report added.

The study, conducted in East and Central Delhi, also called on higher involvement by electricity distribution companies, designing innovative business models, and introducing financial incentives for scaling-up rooftop solar in the residential sector.

It suggested three innovative models – community solar model, on-bill financing model and a solar partner model.

Praveen Kumar, additional secretary at the ministry of new and renewable energy, said the government is formulating a new scheme — SRISTI — to provide impetus to the rooftop sector.

So far, India has been trailing woefully behind its targets as far as yearly additions of rooftop solar plants are concerned.

Dr Arunabha Ghosh, CEO of CEEW said rooftop solar will facilitate a civil society movement to support the energy transition.

“However, conventional rooftop business offerings have failed to spur household demand or incentivise solar developers to focus on residential consumers. Ensuring greater DISCOM participation and adopting innovative business models is key to scaling-up rooftop solar for households.”

He said the government’s SRISTI scheme encourages DISCOMs can help in the matter by providing financial incentives.

“DISCOMs could aggregate consumer demand, partner with financial institutions, facilitate bulk procurement of rooftop systems, oversee project deployment, and ensure timely payments by consumers,” he said.

In Mumbai, for example, Tata Power has tied up with suppliers of BLDC fans — which consume about 50% less power — to source energy efficient fans at bulk prices and distribute them to its customers.

P.R. Kumar, CEO of BSES Yamuna Power Limited — a joint venture between Reliance Infrastructure Limited and Govt of NCT of Delhi — said his company was for the greater adoption of rooftop solar technology.

“Adoption of rooftop solar will also help us to manage the peak demand and fulfil our renewable purchase obligation (RPO),” he said.

He said he hopes that the CEEW-BYPL collaboration will lead to ‘fit-for-purpose’ business models that will help lower electricity bills for residential users. “For these models to realise their true potential, regulatory support would be crucial,” he added.

The new models suggested in the report include easy financing and introduce the concept of solar subscription plans.

It also gives consumers a unique way to pay for the solar installation via financing on their monthly bills.

“The on-bill financing model allows consumers to pay the cost of the rooftop solar system through savings on electricity bill over a duration of 7-8 years,” CEEW said.

The report also pointed to the creation of jobs in the sector. Rooftop solar employs seven times more people than utility-scale solar for every megawatt installed, it said.

“In 2017-18, rooftop solar created nearly 14,000 jobs for about 1 GW capacity compared to nearly 15,000 jobs created for about 8.5 GW of utility solar. Overall, over 300,000 new workers could join India’s solar sector by 2022.”