In February, the Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs approved phase 2 of the grid-connected rooftop solar programme, with a focus on the residential sector. India has set an ambitious target of achieving 40 GW of rooftop solar capacity by 2022. However, while there has been progress on rooftop solar installations among industries and commercial consumers, the uptake among residential consumers has been slow.
Urban residential electricity consumers are still hesitant to consider rooftop solar power for their homes because of not having enough information about it, according to a 2018 study by the World Resources Institute in five cities — Bengaluru, Chandigarh, Chennai, Jaipur and Nagpur.
Hence, considering the vast solar resource at our disposal, the environmental conservation and enrichment targets and reachability of the solar power in the houses of a common man of the country, analysing the reasons of and solutions to the mere use of solar power for the electricity generation at the consumer level is a need of an hour.
REASONS FOR UNDER-UTILISATION OF THE SOLAR RESOURCE BY THE COMMON CONSUMER –
- For residential urban consumers, one of the key barriers to installing rooftop solar systems is that they do not know who to contact to understand the processes to be followed and permissions required.
- There is no single source to access information, evaluate benefits and disadvantages, and examine if any government support (such as a financial subsidy) is available.
- Most of the technical information provided by various sources, including the government, tends to be Internet-based. The study shows that less than 20% of respondents rely on the Internet to make a decision concerning rooftop solar systems. A significant majority of consumers seek face-to-face discussions and recommendations from friends and family.
GENRAL REASONS FOR SUBSCRIBING FOR THE SOLAR PANELS BY THE RESIDENTIAL OWNERS –
- Cut-down electricity bill: The key reason that most homeowners are converting their power source to solar energy is to cut down their electrical bill because the electrical usage generated from the sun is free. By converting home appliances, it is possible to use solar energy which can save your utilities expenses.
- It is a renewable energy source: Solar energy is a good alternative to replace fossil fuel as the major energy source because solar power is renewable at absolutely no cost, to supply energy infinitely.
- Environment friendly: The world pollution is getting worse. Any effort that can reduce the pollution to the environment helps to save the earth. Solar panels are able to harness the energy from the sun and convert it to electricity. Therefore, the use of solar panels is environment friendly.
- Low maintenance: Solar power system can last 20-30 years without major maintenance needed. You may need to do system check once a year, just to make sure everything is performing as it should.
SOLUTIONS TO THE UNDER-UTILISATION OF THE SOLAR RESOURCE BY THE COMMON CONSUMER –
- Devising simple, well-designed and creative ways to disseminate information is important to help consumers make informed decisions. Information must be made easily available to the consumers on the amount of shadow-free roof area needed for generating a unit of electricity and pricing; operating the system, after-sales maintenance and support; and reliable rooftop solar vendors.
- The local electricity linesmen, electricity inspectors, and other nodal officials in the electricity department also have key roles to play. Building their capacities to disseminate such information and handle consumer queries and concerns, and providing basic training in billing and metering for solar power can go a long way in improving consumers’ experience.
- Objective information must be put out through various avenues, so that it is accessible to all segments of the population and in local languages. Such awareness drives will reach larger audiences. Information kiosks can be set up in public institutions like banks to offer information on the technology, as well as on practical issues such as guidance on selecting vendors. A robust feedback mechanism can be put in place for consumers to share their experiences with others.
- Consumer rights groups, rooftop solar system vendors, and resident welfare associations (RWAs) in larger cities are beginning to organise campaigns and workshops to generate awareness and create a dialogue with consumers.
For Example, in November 2018 the Bangalore Apartments’ Federation held a workshop on residential rooftop solar to sensitise their members. Several RWAs have initiated discussions with residents to explore collective installation of rooftop solar, starting with common facilities like lifts and water pumps.
LAKSHYA AHEAD –
Since the market for residential rooftop solar power is nascent, there are opportunities to learn from more mature consumer durable markets. For example, RWAs can tie up with vendors to organise demonstration programmes, so that consumers can observe, operate and understand how the system works.
- It is important to also acknowledge that enthusiasm for rooftop solar energy largely comes from those with higher disposable incomes and who live in their own houses. This is one of the several reasons that electricity utilities are not very supportive of consumers generating their own power, as this would impact their revenues.
- Rooftop solar is a promising energy source for everyone, including socio-economically weaker consumers. However, awareness building sessions need to be socially inclusive and should take place during periods when consumers are likely to be at home.
- The uptake of rooftop solar across economic categories is also contingent on policies that make it more accessible and affordable. Consumer groups and development organisations have a significant role in systematically following key policies and institutional procedures and ensuring that consumers’ concerns in accessing reliable information are addressed. Raising awareness and building consumer capacity to engage with the sector are crucial for ensuring access to affordable, reliable, sustainable and modern energy for all and for India to achieve its rooftop solar targets.
Solar energy is a fortunate future of the country’s energy sector. Though the government is encouraging its utilisation at a Macro level, usage of the solar energy for the electricity purpose by the residential consumers will form the base of its inclusive and penetrating spread across the masses. Government’s encouragement, people’s participation, infrastructural efficiency and policy effectivity will bring the desired results in the future.