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Prasanna Mishra

India is the world's fourth biggest emitter of carbon dioxide after China, the US and the EU. In the just concluded COP26 at Glasgow, Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced India’s resolve to get 50% of its energy from renewable resources by 2030, and, by the same year, to reduce total projected carbon emissions by one billion tons and emissions intensity of the GDP by 45%. India stands committed to a capacity of 500 gigawatts (GW) of non-fossil electricity capacity by 2030.

With more than 300 days of clear sunny days, India has been working on a target of 40GW (40,000MW) of on-grid Rooftop Solar Projects (without battery) on residential, commercial and institutional establishments. RTS 1 (Roof-top Solar Scheme Phase 1) was operational till March 2019. State Nodal Agencies were authorized to disburse subsidy to all segments of customers except commercial establishments. DISCOMs/State Utilities were to give the permission for Solar Net-meter installation for these roof-top projects so that a consumer having generation through his rooftop installation can get credit for generation and pay energy charge only for the amount in excess of what he generated. This impacted revenue of DISCOMs/State Utilities. MNRE thereafter formulated RTS 2 (Roof-top Solar Scheme Phase 2) where the DISCOMs/State Utilities were given responsibilities to disburse subsidy only to Residential rooftop solar PV. 

DISCOMS/State Utilities were to give permission for the Net-metering. For such activities, DISCOM/state utility would be incentivised by Government of India. This led to proliferation of roof-top solar projects across the country but Odisha was left behind even after a compulsory allocation of 4 MW of roof-top solar projects by MNRE for residential units (1MW each for all the four DISCOMs in Odisha) during October 2019. Not a single case of subsidy has been disbursed by the DISCOMs due to various reasons including transitional and transformational activities, such as, recovery from damage suffered by CESU from Cyclone Fani and subsequent take-over of DISCOMs by Tata Power. MNRE advised GRIDCO to coordinate and move the scheme in Odisha. Finally, OREDA, the State Nodal Agency for Renewable Energy in Odisha, empanelled vendors. Finally, all DISOCMs (TPCODL, TPNODL, TPWODL and TPSODL) agreed to take over the subsidy disbursement activity as per MNRE’s original provision and methodology mentioned in RTS 2 scheme. 

Since then, however, there has been little activity and even after two years of allocation of 4MW capacity by MNRE; Odisha as a state, has not been able to disburse subsidy to any of the residential consumers in Odisha. No government intervention by Department of Energy which could have taken suitable actions against the DISCOMs has been forthcoming.

In the meantime, many states have moved fast in the area of rooftop solar installations. Gujarat tops the list of states with the highest installed rooftop solar energy generation capacity in India with total rooftop solar capacity as on 31st August, 2021 at 1357 MW. Maharashtra is next with 765 MW. Rajasthan has the third-highest installed rooftop solar capacity at 543 MW followed by Haryana at 349 MW. Next performer is Tamil Nadu with 334 MW, followed by Karnataka at 295MW. Uttarakhand with 262 MW comes next followed by Uttar Pradesh with 259MW. Delhi has a capacity at 201 MW followed by Telangana at 199 MW. Odisha stood at the 22nd place with a capacity of only 19 MW. India’s total capacity stood at 5484 MW. 

As on March 31, 2021, Odisha had 79.77 lakh domestic consumers and 6.20 lakh Kutir Jyoti consumers. Total LT consumers were 92.79 lakhs. In 2019-20, Odisha’s 88.4 lakh LT consumers were billed by DISCOMs for around Rs 4880 crore. This worked out to Rs 5430 per annum or Rs 452 per month for power consumption. Actual collection however was only Rs 3529 crore and per consumer realisation was Rs 3992 per annum or Rs 333 per month. This indicates that on an average, a LT consumer consumed per month electric energy worth Rs 450 per month which at the then tariff was around 120 units of electricity. Tariff has been rising and a consumer today, would pay Rs 2030 for 400 units a month, and Rs 3270 for 600 units. With 300 days of productive working in a year, a rooftop Solar PV of 3 KW would generate 3600 units per year or 300 units per month. The consumer by having this rooftop device could save at the current tariff Rs 1480 per month. Cost of a 3 KW rooftop solar PV to the customer would be around Rs 1.80 lakh and subsidy available from Government of India is Rs 15,000 upto 3 KW and Rs 7600 for capacity between 4 and 10 KW. Unfortunately, Odisha has not been able to utilise any subsidy allocation for two years and rooftop programme for residential purpose has come to a halt.

World, however, is getting sensitised to the need for reducing carbon emission and more and more homes are going Solar. Many cities have now well-articulated policy to make this happen within a timeframe. For example, city of Berlin recently decided that new buildings and significant rooftop renovations will have mandatory solar PV, both for residential and non-residential buildings. This program is expected to turn 30% of all Berlin roofs into solar roofs. Within the first five years of the program, this decision could save approximately 37,000 tons of CO2 every year. In total, solar power production in Berlin is expected to increase forty times over.

WHAT SHOULD BE ODISHA'S ROADMAP?

So far, the state has done little in this area. 19 MW capacity on rooftop facilities by now is mostly on institutional buildings. At the most, 2000 such buildings would have been covered by now. Residential units have been so far left out. Out of close to 80 lakh domestic consumers of electricity Odisha has, at least ten lakh homes would be having high-energy use gadgets like room air-conditioners. These consumers should be interested in having rooftop facilities. One lakh houses out of this group with rooftop solar PV would create a capacity of 300 MW and could contribute to reduction of carbon emission of good measure. That no such clear guidelines are forthcoming from government is perplexing. That inaction of the DISCOMS over two years in operationalising the subsidy facility does not even have any impact on government is disturbing. 

Odisha needs an immediate clear and bold policy and it must demonstrate its ability to respond to India’s commitment to reduction of carbon emission and increased use of non-fossil power. It is necessary that rooftop solar facility should be incentivised adequately by the state government through a new scheme.

DISCLAIMER: This is an opinion piece. The views expressed are the author’s own and have nothing to do with OTV’s charter or views. OTV does not assume any responsibility or liability for the same. The author can be reached at lonewalker.1942@gmail.com) 

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