Almost every solar programme in India, be it JNNSM or the state policies like Gujarat, Rajasthan, Tamil Nadu, among others, is focused on mostly grid connected utility scale projects. Policy support for Off-grid PV systems is sometimes announced as an afterthought, and in some cases, they do not even find a mention. For example, while JNNSM targets 20 GW of solar generation capacity through grid connected projects by 2022, the target for off-grid PV is 2 GW for the same period. The only exception to this trend seems to be Kerala. The state announced a off-grid rooftop scheme(target 10,000 rooftops ~10 MW) earlier this year and has started implementing the policy. (Tamil Nadu policy has a similar policy – 3 Lakh new houses with solar power lighting systems to be constructed during the period 2011-16 for the benefit of the poor in rural areas, but not sure if it cannot be treated as a rooftop PV programme)
Kerala has one of the highest population densities in the country and does not have any sizable barren land. This makes utility scale ground mounting PV Projects almost impossible to develop. Add to this the fact that the state receives sizable rainfall, which reduces the average Plant Load Factor(PLF) and makes it a lesser attractive option compared to neighboring Tamil Nadu, Karnataka or Andhra Pradesh. This is where the off-grid rooftop PV systems become attractive(and probably the only good option available).
ANERT(Agency for Non-Conventional Energy and Rural Technology), the nodal agency for MNRE in Kerala, announced the 10,000 Solar rooftop programme 2012-13. The programme summary is given below.
- Power plants (solar array) shall be of 1 kWp capacity
- Only off-grid power plants are covered under this programme
- State subsidy of Rs.39.000 per system
- Central Government subsidy of Rs.81,000 or 30% of the cost of power plant (whichever is less) expected
- Applicants should be willing to meet the remaining expense of around Rs.1 lakh
- 10,000 such systems totalling 10 MW solar PV capacity
- Installation of systems fully meeting Govt. of India specification and guidelines through empanelled vendors.
ANERT has started inviting applications from households who are keen on availing the incentives.
By now you would be wondering what exactly is the connection between this programme and Germany. Here it is. Germany’s solar programme also started with a rooftop PV programme called 1000 Roof Program in 1990. In 1999, the German government introduced the 100,000 Roof Programme and there was no looking back after that. According to the German Solar Industry Association – BSW Solar, at the end of 2011, Germany had an installed capacity of about 25 GWp of solar, of which about 85% of the capacity is on rooftops. This corresponds to more than 1 million rooftop PV systems. The picture below taken from a presentation by BSW(downloadable here) sums it up quite well.
(Note : Another presentation from BSW with slightly different numbers can be found here. I am not sure which number is correct, but the takeaway is that rooftop systems has the majority market share)
The notable difference between the Germany solar programme and the Kerala programme is that the former is grid-connected whereas the latter is off-grid. Moreover, the German programme uses Feed-in-Tariffs to promote rooftop systems whereas Kerala government offers capital subsidy.
Kerala has taken a step in the right direction and now the success of the programme depends on the flawless implementation. If done properly, the Kerala model, which ensures retail participation, can become a model for the other states.
PS: A comparison between Gujarat and Kerala policies is available here.