Refined Solar Policy in the pipeline

By RAMRAI NAIK

Solar plants to provide much needed breather as the underground cabling seems a distant dream

Government of Goa is aiming to decrease the conventional energy dependence through promoting a solar initiative. Encouraging businesses to go solar will have enduring impact on power health of the industrial estates, which have been facing several crises in the recent times.

As the underground cabling in the IDCs seems to be a distant dream, in the meantime solar can provide much needed breather. Industry associations and local entrepreneurs have taken up the challenge to convert their business houses with solar panels. Much of it is now dependent on the new Solar Policy 2017, which is in the pipeline. The new policy document will be a refined version of its earlier drafts which were not implemented. Goa as a state doesn’t produce electricity on its own, hence it will be of good use if the overall usage of Solar shoots up.

Power Secretary, IAS Sanjay Goel made an appeal to the industry to adopt solar power in their respective business spaces and also presented the draft policy at the seminar hosted by GCCI in Verna. He also called for comments and suggestions on the policy before it’s been officially published.

Goa government has given a target of achieving 30-40 MW of Solar Power every year from the implementation of the policy and by 2022 target is to reach to 150 MW. Currently there hasn’t been much progress on that front in the state. One of the first grid connected solar rooftop was installed at the Raj Bhavan with a capacity of 30KW and then another smaller plant was installed in the GEDA department itself.

Sanjay Goel is optimistic of the way ahead for the solar adoption in Goa. He says, “We’re waiting for the policy to be implemented as we’ve already got lot of applications for the same. We’ll provide them with grid connected rooftop and then see how things move from that point.”

Subsidies

As per the central government scheme, one can avail 30% on the capital cost of solar rooftop installation which is only for the residential or institutional use. Further the capital cost is determined according to the benchmark cost given by the government.

Government of Goa has proposed subsidies for selected segments over and above the subsidies given by Government of India. It is for those consumers who are off grid, who wants to setup their own standalone solar rooftop without the grid connectivity that will be provided by GEDA.

Additional subsidy will be given since they will have issues with the off grid such as low voltage, frequent power cuts or breakdown. Also, since it’s not connected to the grid, they’re neither exporting solar power to the grid nor importing from it. Goa government will be providing additional subsidy; however the amount won’t be reimbursed up front. It will be generation based subsidy, where a consumer will have to invest in the plant first and the cost will be determined depending on the consumption of the unit. Which will be reimbursed with 30% every month on such generations.

Objectives of the proposed Solar Policy 2017

To promote solar energy for industrial, domestic, commercial and in other applications.
Private and Individual participations to harness solar energy for power generation.
Encouraging investment, competition and efficiency in the field of solar energy.
Installing solar plants and making productive use of wastelands, abandoned mines, canal tops and other open spaces.
To promote R&D activities related to efficient use of solar energy applications.

 

The rationale behind the decision is to ensure that the consumer keeps the plant operational throughout and doesn’t draw government subsidy without generating any power from the solar panels. One good example are holiday homes, where people usually opt for off grid method as they are far away from the grid supply which then remain non functional for most of the time. Therefore, continuously running of such plants will attract the subsidy from the state.

Goel explains how previous attempts had failed in getting out the Solar Policy. “Although there were drafts of Solar Policy earlier, it was not official policy therefore no grid connected Solar plants have come here. We had released the policy for comments earlier this year but the stakeholders found it very complicated hence there was a need to redefine it altogether. The currently proposed document is much simpler than before,” states Goel.

The Power Department is flooded with applicants requesting solar plants with the capacity going up till 100KW. All the plants with capacity less than 100KW would be provided gross metering where the energy has to be injected to the grid without allowing the consumer to make use of it. However, all those who will apply for solar plants with a capacity higher than that would be equipped with net metering where the consumer would have the benefit of consuming the solar generated energy before sending it to the grid.

Business Opportunity

The advent of Solar Policy opens up windows of opportunity for businesses. Demand for solar related equipment would generally go up with an effective implementation of the policy. One of the common way to enter the respective market is by having business premises merely for the purpose of generating solar power. “Private players are welcome in this initiative of generating solar power but it depends on what price we will buy the power from them. Suppose one wants to buy a plant of 3MW and be able to produce 10000 units of power every month, we can buy the power; but at what price? In such cases, we will have to go for reverse bidding and identify the purchase price,” Goel informed. Currently there is no solar purchase price determined by the state body and the government does business with the price fixed by JERC (Joint Electricity Regulatory Commission). JERC price is considered higher with regards to regulatory standards where buying bulk power would be an expensive affair for the government; hence they have sought reverse bidding as an option. The Government also plans to put a proper mechanism in that direction to bring out more clarity in the future. The upcoming Solar Policy in Goa will be in sync with the national standards. GEDA claims to have studied the model of 2-3 states like Gujarat, Delhi, Karnataka and accordingly initiated the drafting of the policy. Getting many into using solar technology would be a challenging task, since power tariff in Goa are quite cheaper in comparison with other states.

Installation Process

For instance, an individual/institution wants to setup a solar plant on his roof, there will be channel partners on the website of GEDA. These channel partners would have a defined price per KW and they will install the plant on the applicant’s site depending on any size or capacity. Then the certification process will be initiated by the nodal agency, GEDA. On that certification one would get the grid connectivity from the electricity department. After GEDA approves that plant of certain size is installed at particular site and is in working state, then immediately 30% subsidy will be reimbursed on the capital cost.

The applicant will be further paid on whatever power he exports to the grid in the 3 or 6 months billing cycle. Those who have installed the solar tech at institutions or residence (capacity lesser than 100KW) will be major beneficiaries of this solar scheme – as they will be paid according to higher price defined by JERC. And the energy that they consume from the grid will be charged as per the normal domestic rates. The incentives for such small producers is a win-win situation as on exported power he would get double price, while paying half on the power that he draws from the grid.

There is no denying that installation of the solar plant is quite expensive; however costs can be recovered within seven years. Life of the solar panel ranges from 22-25 years. Similarly, solar panels require minimal maintenance as it’s just a static glass attached to a battery. After the installation process of the solar panels, only difference one would see is in the electricity bills.

Also one cannot deny the fact that, efficiency of the panel deteriorates and it doesn’t function to its full potential over time. Innovation in this segment is the need of the hour till it brings prices to a level where it’s affordable to many, combined with government subsidies. At the same time improve its quality and efficiency.

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