Delhi Considers ‘Rent-a-Roof’ Solar Power Program To Meet Rising Electricity Demand

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Solar Panels CloseupA solar rooftop policy mastered by Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi in Gujarat during his tenure as Chief Minister is set to be replicated across the country, starting with the national capital Delhi. The aggressive expansion of this solar power program may help bridge the energy access gap and fulfill the government pledge to provide 24/7 electricity to all consumers.

The New Delhi Municipal Council (NDMC) has come out with a detailed plan for generation of solar energy through roof-top installations. The plan aims to install roof-top solar panels on the 40 identified civic buildings. The installation would be focused on schools, sub-stations, inquiry offices, hospitals, etc. All these buildings come under the NDMC administration zone.

An operator would be appointed by NDMC to identify, design, erect, install, test and commission roof-top solar systems. Tenders have already been floated for the same. Earlier this year in February, the Ministry of New and Renewable Energy (MNRE) had granted in-principle approval to NDMC to develop New Delhi as a ‘Solar City’. On completion of the solar roof-top installations, New Delhi would become the second solar city in the country after Chandigarh.

The MoU signed between NDMC and the Solar Energy Corporation of India mandates civic bodies to utilize at least five percent of the total energy consumption needs through solar energy. The solar power generated by the operator would be fully procured by NDMC and would be fed to the NDMC distribution network. The power tariff shall be as per the rates determined by the Delhi Electricity Regulatory Commission. According to the NDMC official, this roof-top installation plan would achieve a capacity of 8 MW within a year.

NDMC is also contributing towards clean energy from its 16 MW ‘waste-to-power’ plant in New Delhi. The electricity generated from this plant is fed to 8,000 households.

Delhi suffers from acute power cuts mainly during the peak hours. It seems even the new government is having hard time to ensure uninterrupted power supply to the citizens. Over-dependence on coal, flawed distribution network, and financially crippled utilities have further aggravated the problem. Roof-top solar can play a vital role in solving the energy crises by bridging demand-supply gap.

Plan To Replicate Gujarat’s Solar Power Model

The government of Gujarat has come out with a plan called ‘rent-a-roof’ in Gandhinagar. Under this project, residents give their rooftops on hire to private solar energy companies which in turn pay them Rs 3 ($0.05) for every unit of energy produced. Similarly, rooftops of government buildings can also be leased out for installing solar panels.

The Delhi government plans to replicate the same model. Experts believe that if the same model is replicated in Delhi, it has the potential to deliver 50-100 MW in installed capacity.

Recently, environment department officials who visited the rent-a-roof project of Gujarat concluded that the ‘rent-a-roof’ model can be replicated in government offices and hospitals, as most of the private buildings are not properly aligned unlike in Gandhinagar, which is a planned city with symmetrical buildings.

Need For Comprehensive Roof-Top Solar Policy

Currently, Delhi has no dedicated roof-top solar policy. In 2011 the Delhi government came out with a draft roof-top solar policy to promote small-scale and decentralized solar power generation. The policy was formulated with an aim to meet the Renewable Energy Obligation (RPO) from the roof-top program. According to the policy, the homeowners had the choice to either lease their roofs to a developer or to install a solar system on their own. However, the Delhi government scrapped an initial plan to install 465 kW of rooftop solar power systems under the feed-in tariff scheme in 2012 due to unfavorable economics. A lack of awareness regarding the feed-in-tariff scheme among the consumers also contributed to the failure of the scheme.

In 2013, some momentum was gained and a draft proposal on net metering policy for feed-in-tariffs was issued by the Delhi Electricity Regulatory Commission (DERC). The proposal seemed to favor the private distribution companies with little incentives for the domestic consumers. The proposal had aimed to limit the capacity of the roof-top solar system that a household can install to the sanctioned load of that household, and contained several other objectionable clauses. In December 2013, the DERC had asked for the views of the stakeholders on the draft policy.

Greenpeace India has strongly condemned the draft proposal, stating that it is highly in favor of private distribution companies protecting their business interest and undermining general consumers’ interest and clean energy development benefits. They have already submitted their suggestions and objections to the DERC. A final net-metering proposal is yet to be released.

There is a need for a user-friendly roof-top solar policy in Delhi that can effectively addresses the problem of power cuts and can also provide affordable, profitable and clean energy to the community. A roof-top solar scheme would also help the Delhi government to fulfill its solar energy purchase obligation, which mandates states across India to source at least 0.25% of their power consumption from solar power plants. The state governments are also required to increase solar power’s contribution to 3% by 2022. In states like Delhi, where land availability is a major concern, rooftops can contribute significantly in terms of solar energy capacity addition.

The government needs to play a facilitating role in promoting rooftop solar with adoption of favorable net-metering policy. The net-metering program should be introduced soon with a policy framework focused to provide benefits to the common consumers.

Image credit: Solar panels via Waynenf | CC by 2.0

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Mridul Chadha

Mridul currently works as Head-News & Data at Climate Connect Limited, a market research and analytics firm in the renewable energy and carbon markets domain. He earned his Master’s in Technology degree from The Energy & Resources Institute in Renewable Energy Engineering and Management. He also has a bachelor’s degree in Environmental Engineering. Mridul has a keen interest in renewable energy sector in India and emerging carbon markets like China and Australia.

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