• Prospects may not be bright for rooftop solar unit users

    Tangedco’s plan to do away with concessions for those with rooftop solar units generating power for the grid has disappointed low tension solar power installers, who say the move will affect them financially.

    At present, under the bi-directional net meter connection system, the net consumption of electricity would be arrived after subtracting from the total units consumed the units of solar power pushed to the grid. This helps in saving power cost.

    In a State where there is a graded tariff based on the number of units consumed, this seemed to be of huge benefit to consumers. For instance, if a home had consumed 501 units of power, and had a rooftop solar installation that had produced 50 units of power for the grid, then the bill for that house would be calculated for 451 units only. The rate for 501 units is about Rs. 2,300, whereas, the rate for less than 500 units could be only Rs. 1,200, resulting in a substantial saving for the household.

    Feed in tariff

    Tangedco’s current proposal to introduce ‘Feed in Tariff’ — fixing a different rate for solar low tension power producers — will put paid to this level of savings. As per the new strategy, if cleared, the number of units consumed will not factor in the units of solar power let into the grid by a home or a school. Instead, they would have to pay, in case of the above instance, for the 501 units consumed. As for the power they send to the grid, a lower rate will be fixed and the amount (calculated by units) will be credited to the generator.

    Though Tangedco’s petition for the implementation of the new system is yet to be taken up for hearing by Tamil Nadu Electricity Regulatory Commission, the move has confirmed the fears of solar installers who were wondering about the reasons for the delay in the installation of net meters for several roof-top solar plants.

    Several solar installers, having set up rooftop solar plants, have been claiming that they are unable to connect the plants with the electricity grid because of non-availability of net meters. Similarly, several low tension consumers, both domestic and commercial, say the shortage of net meters is causing a delay in completing their solar plant projects. Aggrieved consumers complain that despite their heavy investment on rooftop panels, now that there is a delay in providing government subsidy, they are unable to actually reap any of the benefits — either financially or in terms of savings in power consumption.

    A senior official of Tangedco, denying that there was shortage of net meters, says only a few applications for net metering are pending.

    He says several technical factors have to be weighed in before connecting to the grid such as the need for assessing the load of the transformers by the concerned local officials, as solar power could not be loaded more than 30 per cent with the electricity grid in a particular transformer.

    The senior official says they decided to go for the ‘Feed in Tariff’ system for rooftop solar plants after taking into consideration the falling solar prices. He said: “Net metering is proving to be a loss for us when it comes to commercial connections and so, the proposal was moved with the TNERC.”

    K.E. Raghunathan, Managing Director, Solkar Solar Industry, recalled the TNERC’s order dated November 13, 2013, which sought to encourage large scale solar power plants in the State through the implementation of a solar roof-top net metering policy. However, the proposed introduction of the ‘Feed in Tariff’ system at a time when installers are already shying away because of delay in getting net meters would sound the death knell for the solar industry.

    Several solar installers point out a recent comprehensive tariff order from TNERC indicates that the total connected load of solar power (from low tension generators) was roughly around 15 MW only. So, even if the net metering system continues, the electricity department is likely to suffer much losses, the solar installers point out, besides underlining the fact that the State government should be going in for more clean energy projects. Corey Grant Jersey

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