Power sector of India is buzzing with activities. There has been an unprecedented growth in shares of renewable energy. At the same time, rural electrification & power for all schemes have been on priority lists of the Indian government. Undeniably the power assets will be under stress as power demand increases. While the supply should be up to meet the urban electricity demand at all the time, capital expenditure will also be intensive in extending the grid to our villages. While solar energy growth is going to remain bullish in the long-term, the focus should be more on the rooftop solar market.
Even as India has managed to reduce the cost of solar energy, it will take some time before the benefits become apparent. Most solar projects are under construction currently. Also, procuring low-cost solar power benefits DISCOMS and not a consumer. The graph shows the cost trends of solar projects in India:
No doubt the cost of solar energy in India is at record low levels. But these are ground mount projects which will not benefit the consumers directly unless they start using rooftop solar plants. Lower cost from rooftop solar will reflect on their electricity bills.
India has plans to have 100 GW of solar capacity by 2022. Of this 40 GW will be from rooftop solar plants. The targets are rigorous as well as ambitious. But also as solar capacity continues to add to India’s generation mix, thermal power plants continue to dominate the power generation.
Thus, India cannot back down its thermal power plants suddenly as they are major energy generation sources. But India also faces a grim reality. Thermal power plants in India are operating at an average PLF of 60%. So on one hand, India cannot replace its thermal power plants with solar or other renewable plants totally for at least next few decades, it cannot afford to keep its thermal capacities underutilised for a long period of time. Also, the power demand continues to soar up. To top it all the fuel for thermal power plants is limited.
Rooftop solar plants may actually be a single remedy against these multiple issues that Indian power sector faces today. By allowing a greater autonomy to consumers in generating their own solar energy and consuming it regulators are relieving the supply stress on conventional power plants and the DISCOMS. Unlike ground mount solar plants which require land for installation, rooftop solar plants need no land. Thus it forgoes the costs associated with land identification & acquisition. Further, a site of rooftop solar is common for power generation and consumption. Therefore, it does not need transmission or distribution network for wheeling of power. Hence there is no network losses or any capital expenditure for development or modernization of grid.
Also as part of the ‘power for all scheme’, the applications of solar PV can be extended to the Indian villages in form of mini-grid or rooftop solar projects.