In the Indian Express Newspaper on the 19th October, a news caught the eye of one of my friend and client, for whom I’m designing a Green township. Rooftops as Energy Farms– Gujarat has launched a pilot project where rooftops of homes and commercial establishments are being rented out to generate solar power that is fed into the state grid, translating into a source of income for property owners and greening electricity production.
The State of Gujrat, under CM Narendra Modi is quite tuned to the Climate change and understands the need to engage the common person in creating an energy surplus state. With each house-hold given the incentive of Rupee 3/- via the Grid interactive system. Starting with Gandhinagar, the program of giving ‘carbon credits’ to five more cities have been approved by the Gujrat government. One hopes the rest of India would follow this sensible way of boosting the energy issue, without courting controversy.
Net metering is an electricity policy for consumers who own (generally small) renewable energy facilities (such as wind, solar power or home fuel cells) or V2G electric vehicles. “Net”, in this context, is used in the sense of meaning “what remains after deductions” — in this case, the deduction of any energy outflows from metered energy inflows. Under net metering, a system owner receives retail credit for at least a portion of the electricity they generate. (Source: Wikipedia)
In simpler words, When your home is equipped with a renewable energy source (such as wind or solar power), it sends the excess energy that’s generated back into the grid to power other homes. While you’re away, your house is generating energy but you’re not using it. Net metering ensures the energy you generate at home doesn’t go to waste. An electrical converter called an inverter turns the DC (direct current) power coming from your renewable energy source into AC (alternating current) power, which matches the voltage of the electricity flowing through the power line. If you’ve generated more energy than you’ve used at the end of the year, your electric company may pay you back for the extra power. Net metering can be measured over the month or year. Annualized net metering provides a more accurate measurement because it takes into account your changing energy usage and production over the four seasons. ( Source:How Stuff Works).
This week Tamil Nadu opened up the GBI –The scheme of generation-based incentive (GBI), essentially aimed at covering domestic consumers, will be administered jointly by the Tamil Nadu Energy Development Agency (Teda) and the Tamil Nadu Generation and Distribution Corporation (Tangedco). Included in the recently unveiled Solar Energy Policy, the scheme envisages providing Rs. 2 per unit for the first two years; Re. 1 per unit for the next two years and 50 paise per unit for the subsequent two years.
While it is good to see that the state after state is awaking to the solar policy and even looking at giving a return, what they also need to look at is innovation. The most important factor is who would be the beneficiary of this GBI ? Will it actually elevate the suffering of the needy? Who guarantees that the surplus power thus created would eventually given back to the very locality which is providing the roof-tops? With states having shortfall in their generation, it would be easy to send the power for commercial use and thus encourage more commercial enterprises to set shop; having found assured power. This is most possible because commercial power brings in more profit to the electric company. The other profitable venture is from the rich residential area where the tariff is decent. However, the rich and the upper middle class in megalopolises, live in tall sky-scrapers where open roof-top is a premium. But they require system which is minimum 5KW. Here the price becomes steep even if space can be found even for most upper middle class consumers.
The roof-tops which is available & most need the power belong to the tier-II cities middle class and the rural poor, who are already finding hard to make ends meet. With, the cost per watt peak between INR 50/- to 120/- which per Kilo Watt translates to One Lakh Twenty thousand, is not something every “Aam Admi” ( aam = common; it also denotes – Mangoes) can aspire to purchase and that is something our policy makers have not thought about. A person who uses only 5kwhr of power or 5units a day is not someone who could or need to spend Rupee 1.2 lakh or $ 2232. Therefore, it could be easy for the unscrupulous to capture vast rooftops, set up the solar and skim the poor roof-top owners. Imagine, the economically weaker section providing their collective roof-tops at the city fringes and receiving Paise Ten of every Rupee envisaged in the scheme, while the rest the “investor” pockets. It is not that such eventuality would not have been thought by the policy makers, but who would be monitoring? In the “scam a week” India of today, every utopian idea can get bastardized easily.
But, here is the way one may improve the concept and provide the power to one and all especially the middle class, who are a fairly large consumer as a group staying in class 1 cities like Pune, Bangalore and the likes where roofs; unlike Mumbai are still available in size large enough to cater to a decent solar power generation. One can also add New Delhi as the megalopolis which can afford and need the solar to stem the power outages in Summer.
There are already RESCO‘s who have been supporting my concept of OPEX Solar and the only thing they are interested is in banking the extra-generation and availing it when required from the DISCOM. Here they are wanting to put up the system which generate power during the day which is enough to cater to the needs of that very roof owner for a 24hour period.
The solution is simple. Say for example, a restaurant requires 100Kw and consumes 40KwHr during the daytime and 60KwHr in the night. As solar does not function in the night, ideally they would require a battery bank to store the power. However, if the surplus 60Kw is sent to the grid and in the evening the grid supplies that much power back to the establishment, then in effect the restaurant is running its operations on 100% Solar power. Same can be thought for residential areas which are large consumer of power.
The Grid can benefit in many ways –
1. It can charge a fee say between 2 to 5% ( similar to wheeling charges ) from the RESCO.
2. During the daytime when peak demand makes it difficult to manage, the extra solar power coming to it would ease the pressure and can be sold at commercial rate while eliminating the chance of a Grid collapse.
3. It would also help them not to short-change the rural and the urban poor, by being able to cut down on their load-shedding hours, which in certain places is 6 hours or more. Which would eventually help the countries growth.
What we require are policy which are driven from the Centre and applied equally by all states. The incentives which are envisaged are good. Let that be given to the RESCO’s who find it un-viable to provide the services to the rural and urban poor, whose tariff does not allow the companies to have a IRR which is acceptable. A decent tariff is INR 7.50. Therefore if the state gives the extra INR 3.00 on the tariff of INR 4.50 which is the tariff in some places, almost all the roof of India would see a solar panel within 3 years.