Growing concerns over climate change and issues of sustainable development have drawn global attention towards clean energy transitions. India being among the leading nations in terms of installed Renewable Energy (RE) capacity, has set an ambitious Nationally Determined Contribution (NDC) of achieving 40 percent of its total installed energy capacity through non-fossil fuel-based sources by 2030 under the Paris Agreement 2015.
In line with this ambitious target, the initial Renewable Energy (RE) targets were set at 175 GW by 2022; this has now been revised to 227 GW by 2022. Out of the 227 GW, 114 GW will be contributed by grid-connected and off-grid solar energy utilities.
Solar PV installations in India are chiefly comprised of ground-mounted (large and medium scale) plants and solar PV rooftop systems. The Central agency for RE capacity building, Ministry of New and Renewable Energy (MNRE), has launched several schemes for stimulating the adoption and diffusion of solar technologies since 2016. Some of these initiatives include: Jawahar Lal Nehru National Solar Mission (Phase II); Development of Solar Parks and Ultra Mega Solar Projects (e.g., Badla Solar Park in Rajasthan, Charanka Solar Park in Gujarat and Kurnool Ultra Mega Solar Park in Andhra Pradesh, etc.); and Grid Connected Solar Rooftop Programme.
Although the capacity addition in terms of solar PV utilities has grown from 6.7 GW in 2015-16 to a current cumulative capacity of 41.7 GW in the first quarter of 2021 (i.e. approximately 5 times of the 2015-16 levels), capacity additions in the PV rooftop segment have been unsatisfactory given the nationally determined target of achieving 40 GW of installed capacity by 2022.
As per recent estimates (as of February 28, 2021), the cumulative capacity of solar PV rooftop systems stands at 4324.58 MW. This falls far behind the target, i.e., around 10% of the capacity to be achieved by 2022.
Recent MNRE statistics reveal that Gujarat tops the list of Indian states with installed solar rooftop capacity, at 943. 13 MW. The persisting pandemic has slowed down the pace of capacity addition but policy incentives like SURYA-Gujarat are paving the way towards Gujarat’s clean energy transition. Other states that follow are: Maharashtra with 647.73 MW; Rajasthan with 419 MW; Tamil Nadu with 313.33 MW; and Haryana with 277.03 MW of installed solar rooftop capacity
In sync with the National Solar Mission’s target, the Centre has given Gujarat a target of 8.024 GW by 2022. Out of this, 3.2 GW should comprise rooftop installations. Solar rooftop utilities are distributed among commercial, industrial, public sector, and residential consumers. Even though Gujarat fares better than other Indian states in terms of installed solar PV rooftop capacity, it has only achieved around 30% of the allotted target, as of the first quarter of 2021.
There is a large untapped potential for capacity development of rooftop systems by promoting the diffusion of solar PV rooftop technologies, particularly among residential households. Since the majority of commercial, public, and industrial sector utilities are medium- or large-scale ground-mounted solar plants, the solar PV rooftop technology adoption by residential consumers is a potential way forward to achieving Gujarat’s rooftop PV targets by 2022.
Moreover, as rooftop utilities do not require additional land allocation and the energy generated is consumed at source, this is a superior alternative with respect to the transition towards a clean energy future.
Acknowledging the potential of solar PV rooftops and realizing the necessity of tapping this still underexplored market, Gujarat state nodal agencies, such as Gujarat Urja Vikas Nigam Limited (GUVNL) and Gujarat Energy Development Agency (GEDA) have implemented schemes for incentivizing the uptake of solar rooftop adoption, especially among residential consumers.
The Gujarat Solar Policy 2021 and Surya Urja Rooftop Yojana – Gujarat (SURYA- Gujarat) are state-level policy initiatives that focus on providing technical assistance and financial support to residential rooftop users. The SURYA – Gujarat scheme targets coverage of 8 lakh residential consumers by the end of FY 2021-22. However, as of December 31, 2020, the commissioned residential rooftop capacity was around 632.26 MW (GEDA).
With respect to the number of consumers catered to by the end of 2020, Gujarat has only been able to achieve around 2 lakh residential consumers for Solar PV rooftops. This is merely one-fourth of the target allocated to Gujarat.
In this context, there is a need to understand what factors determine the decisions made by residential consumers. Despite incentives such as net-metering systems (@ Rs 2.25/ unit) and state subsidies of 40% for grid-connected PV utilities up to 3 KW and 20% for above 3 KW to 10 KW capacity made available for private residential consumers in Gujarat, the adoption rate of solar rooftops is considerably lagging with respect to Gujarat’s residential segment target for the end of 2021-22.
A recent study funded by the Climate Change Department, Government of Gujarat aimed to explore the adoption determinants of solar PV rooftops among residential households. The preliminary findings suggested that PV rooftops are mainly being adopted by high income households. Although middle-income and low-income households are aware of the economic and environmental benefits of solar PV rooftops, they are unable to adopt this technology due to high installation costs which must be incurred as a one-time payment.
Also most users of solar PV rooftops are urban residents, and the penetration of this technology is quite low in rural areas of Gujarat. Interestingly, cultural factors such as the kite flying festival in Gujarat also inhibit consumers from sacrificing their roof areas to install PV systems. Moreover, many of the non-users are still unaware of the benefits and promotional schemes of MNRE, GEDA, and GUVNL. This indicates a need for more exhaustive marketing campaigns for rooftop PV adoption and diffusion among rural as well as urban households.
To cater to the financial challenge of middle- and low-income households regarding large one-time installation costs of solar panels, provisions for partial payment such as monthly or quarterly installments can be aided by the state nodal agencies.
There is also a need to boost investment in R&D to fund the government and private laboratories and promote innovative businesses so that more efficient PV panels that would generate more electricity per KW and require less installation space, can be produced. This will also make it easier for consumers who are reluctant to do away with their roof spaces to install PV rooftops.
Additionally, the study also revealed that the adoption of rooftops is lowest among households living in flats or residential societies in Gujarat. Policy incentives to facilitate cooperative ownership of solar PV rooftops can help expand the consumer base further with regards to private consumers living in premises with shared rooftops.
In light of this discussion, it is important to streamline Gujarat’s solar energy policies to fill the gaps in the market expansion of solar PV systems among residential households. Incorporation of measures to cater to the cultural requirements and financial challenges of middle income and low -income households, and intensive marketing and advertisement drives to spread awareness in rural as well as urban regions, are some of the steps to ensure achievement of Gujarat’s 8.024 GW target.
Furthermore, developing policies conducive to innovation and R&D activities, specifically focusing on product innovations, would help in increasing efficiency and coming up with more cost-saving and space-saving designs.
It is only through chiseling the rough edges in the existing Solar Policy and Rooftop scheme that Gujarat can achieve is ambitious solar rooftop target by 2022.
Stuti Haldar is a Research Associate at the School of Environment and Sustainable Development, Central University of Gujarat. She has a PhD in Economics and specializes in sustainable energy transitions in developing nations’ context. Bhawana Pathak is Professor and Dean of the School of Environment and Sustainable Development, Central University of Gujarat.
This article was amended on April 23, 2021 to include revisions by the author.
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