Why Delhi needs to renew focus on tapping solar energy

Delhi: 7 March, 2022 (Times of India)

 

New Delhi: The capital, which is one of the most polluted cities in the world, still has a long way to go to achieve its clean energy goals and increase its dependency on renewable sources to reduce emissions.

Data showed that Delhi saw some increase in the installed capacity last year, but it was a fraction of the ambitious targets set by Delhi government’s solar power policy. As of December 2021, the installed capacity through rooftop solar plants was 221.5 MW against the target of 1,000 MW by 2020 and 2,762 MW by 2022.

“Solar energy has a lot of potential in Delhi. The goal is to reduce the dependence on coal-fired electricity and, thus, reduction in greenhouse gas emissions,” said a government report.

According to clean energy consulting firm Mercom India, the cumulative rooftop solar power installations as of July 31, 2021 was 184 MW. The installations rose to 201 MW by September 2021. Delhi’s discoms have a renewable power purchase obligation of 10.25% for 2021-22 and 10.5% for 2022-23.

While Delhi government is promoting rooftop solar power to promote clean energy and reduce the carbon footprint, the endeavour seems to be lagging due to a slew of reasons.

“Residential rooftop solar power is not picking up pace, but booming in the commercial and industrial segment because of the cost implications. Since residential users in Delhi get 200 units free, people are not very interested in solar power. This is a major roadblock,” said Binit Das, deputy programme manager, renewables, Centre for Science and Environment.
Das added that higher power purchase agreements were also a roadblock as the city bought clean energy from elsewhere, thereby affecting local targets.

“The existing purchase models are not fit for residential purposes in Delhi. Capital expenditure needs large investments. Another model, renewable energy service company, installs the entire setup on rooftops for free and charges for per unit of consumption. But it is done on a large scale (200 KW limit), while normal households are of 3-5KW,” he said.

Ashwani Ashok from Power for All, an NGO that works in the energy and renewables sector, said, “Solar power is not doing well across the country, but there is a huge potential. The issues include rise in project cost after Covid-19, higher operational and maintenance cost and lack of funding. There is also dependence on non-indigenous panels. Also, the targets in all cities are ambitious.”

Experts, however, stated that while Delhi had issues like limited land resources, during the pandemic many group housing societies were reluctant to let vendors enter their areas.

“BSES Rajdhani and Yamuna have been aggressively promoting rooftop solar power in south, west, east and central Delhi. They have energised a record 4,000-plus installations with a connected load of over 120 MW. To realise its full potential, BSES is accelerating rooftop installations, besides adoption of solar power. This is a win-win proposition for both consumers and the discoms. The outreach programme is also educating consumers about the benefits of solar energy,” said a discom official.