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The future is bright

Nevertheless hindrances, solar energy has to be the future of a fast-emerging economy like India

The future is bright

In a country blessed with copious amounts of sunshine, tapping this endowment of nature is, without a doubt, the most prudent step forward. The amount of solar energy India receives throughout its length and breadth is potentially the answer to most of the concerning questions of energy crisis of this day. The pursuit for harnessing this energy, however, is the prime consideration as the straight and clear path to abundant energy is fraught with stumbling realities. Beginning with the installation of photovoltaic cells and their maintenance to distribution of energy thus harnessed, solar power is a source of energy that demands large-scale planning and meticulous integration to bear desired results. Given this, a small step is a fair start and many similar small steps will eventually make it easier to turn solar power into a pervasively consumed energy. The instance of a normal educational institute that functions for around 230 days in a year generates solar power for 310-320 days serves to instil hope that the initial investment is indeed a desirable long term pay off. Delhi, among other cities, is known for taking the lead in this arena as more schools and colleges switch to solar net metering with over 500 schools and colleges installing rooftop solar panels to save energy and money. Establishing that the BSES Solar City initiative is promising to be a game-changer, apart from promoting adoption of solar panels, the initiative is a win-win proposition for both the consumers and discom form both economic perspective and also considering the environmental crisis. BSES Rajdhani Power Limited is a joint venture of Reliance Infrastructure Ltd. and the government. of NCT of Delhi. The BSES discoms (BYPL and BRPL) have energised over 1,800 rooftop solar net metering connections with a sanctioned load of 65 MW. Around 500 of these connections are with the educational institutions. Educational institutions taking the lede is a favourable course of change as not only does it play a crucial role in sensitising the youth to the need of renewable energy but it also server to eventually become local centres of power to be developed further to cater to local requirements. The fact that a normal educational institute functions for around 230 days in a year while generating solar power for 310-320 days gives the excess generation of around 80-90 days apt to be exported. Discoms pay consumers for the surplus energy generated over and above their own consumption according to the Delhi Electricity Regulatory Commission (DERC) guidelines. This credit is passed on at the end of the financial year at the rate of average power purchase cost prevailing at that time. Jamia Milia Islamia, Don Bosco Technical School, Netaji Subhash Institute of Technology, Vasant Valley, DPS Mathura Road, Tagore International and DAV Public School are some of the institutions where solar net metering has been reported to be under used. It is said that though the monthly and annual saving will vary from consumer to consumer depending on their solar capacity and hours of usage, their annual energy saving potential is around 30 per cent. Educational institutions end up saving around Rs 7,000 per KW every year. Solar panels reduce bills by 50 per cent. It has been established and proven time and again that rooftop solar net metering is an ideal method to reduce electricity bills—a solution that is both pocket-friendly as well as environment-friendly.

Delhi has touched yet another milestone under the Mukhyamantri Solar Power Yojana, the Aam Admi Party-led Delhi government's flagship scheme launched in 2018, as 146 MW solar capacity has been achieved in 2,900-odd installations that has helped reduce 500 tons CO2-eq emissions daily. The process of the rooftop installations of solar panels began and has progressed with a significant pace in the national capital with installation of these panels in maximum places feasible. Further, fitting housing societies with solar panels to facilitate common utilities like parking, lift, clubs and gym is a move that has contributed to reduced electricity bill from Rs 10 per unit to Rs 1 in such households. Apart from this, the overall electricity bill of these societies has also announced to have been reduced by 50 per cent. As per the statement of the government, 25 per cent of the societies in Dwarka last year availed the scheme. Also, if any society wanted to install solar panels, Delhi government provided subsidy worth 30 per cent of the cost of the plant. Solar panels of mono-crystalline modules save electricity better, hence their installation in housing societies has been a beneficial move. Apart from the residential societies, making available the benefits to schools, colleges, hospitals, NGOs, etc is taking the city to newer and cleaner heights of energy consumption. Pune is yet another prominent city to follow suit and has emerged a winner in rooftop solar energy. The second-largest city in Maharashtra, Pune has out run Delhi, Mumbai, and Chennai with its 130 megawatts (MW) of rooftop solar power generation capacity according to recent reports. Given that Pune is one of the biggest industrial zones in India, industrial buildings have rooftop solar adoption as they have higher rooftop area and are also charged higher electricity rates. Maharashtra also happens to be the state that houses the largest slum in Asia and indicating the disparity between those who can afford full time electricity and those who cannot, the surplus power generated could be distributed to meet the needs of maximum people more equitably. Among the stumbling concerns, the adoption of rooftop solar panels also depends on the tedious process of getting permissions and setting up a net meter that allows the customer to sell power into the grid during the day when the panels produce more electricity than needed. Different states have different net metering policies. The government offers subsidies for installing solar panels on residential and institutional buildings but these have not yet spurred growth in these segments. The glitches in the process of establishing the mechanism for harnessing solar energy point to the fact that private players that are obviously profit driven cannot be relied upon for a sustainable long- term system. In a welfare state, it is the government we turn to, and in this regard, it becomes the responsibility of the government to ensure the steady realisation of this initiative. A quotable example is the Uttar Pradesh government which has introduced blockchain to allow trading of surplus solar power and the state power utilities have launched an ambitious pilot projects in select government buildings in Lucknow that have installed rooftop solar power plants. Although a difficult initiative initially, solar power has to be the future of a fast emerging economy such as India. Encouraging education and further development in this direction is most favourable. Investment in such a development is one that cannot be backtracked and once set out on this path, there is only moving forward.

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