Cost Savings and Net-Zero Targets Drive Solar Adoption in the C&I Segment

Rooftop installations make up 57% of the C&I solar market


Businesses have to embrace renewable energy faster and in more significant numbers if India has to realize its non-fossil fuel energy target by 2030.

The Commercial and Industrial (C&I) segment has seen a significant shift toward renewable energy to meet its power requirements and simultaneously save on electricity costs. Solar tariffs are cheaper than retail electricity charges in many states.

As per Mercom India Research, the cumulative rooftop solar installations as of March 2022 stood at around 7.6 GW and cumulative open access solar installations at 5.7 GW.

Rooftop installations make up 57% of the C&I solar market, with open access installations making up the rest.

The industrial segment made up for the most rooftop capacity additions during Q1 2022.

Mercom India hosted a Solar Summit 2022 on July 28-29 in New Delhi to understand this recent shift and other industry concerns. The event addressed important issues, opportunities, and emerging trends in the industry, including the government’s solar installation goal of 280 GW by 2030, supply chains, and other critical issues.

The summit had a session dedicated to the C&I segment titled “Commercial and Industrial Sector Going Solar – Potential Market, Policies, and Business Models.” The panelists were Anil Bhat, CEO Distributed Solar, Amplus Solar; Manoj Kumar Agarwal, Chief General Manager, POSOCO; Naveen Nagpal, Assistant Vice President, Renewable, BSES Rajdhani Power; and Shah Masood Jafar, Regional Head – North, Rooftops, Tata Power.

Priya Sanjay, Managing Director, Mercom India, moderated the session.

Open Access for C&I

Bhat said there had been a considerable increase in solar installations, especially post-COVID and in the quarter before the basic customs duty came into effect. Both developers and consumers want installations to be done at a faster pace. Karnataka has been leading when it comes to open access and saw a lot of new investments. Uttar Pradesh and Chhattisgarh are the other new upcoming markets apart from Maharashtra and Gujarat. “The green open access policy will reduce the role of distribution companies (DISCOMs) and promote the role of the dispatch centers and help transmit large-scale power at the interstate level. The shift to renewables for corporates is mainly driven by the economic benefits and the net-zero targets set by the companies.”

Nagpal said the green open access policy, and the ISTS waiver will help open access numbers go up. The new policy has reduced the eligibility from 1 MW to just 100 kW and added energy banking, which is a significant consumer benefit. “There is a constant debate on how DISCOMs do not encourage open access due to the loss in revenue. But we feel that the revenue lost is recovered through cross subsidy and other surcharges that the developers end up paying the DISCOMs. Also, we expect the rate of virtual power purchase agreements to go up as open access does not always help meet the 100% power requirements of the consumers. Virtual PPAs can help them achieve a green portfolio, without having to procure the power physically.”

Agarwal emphasized the importance of forecasting “Now that we are the central nodal agency for the green open access, we aim to maintain a central repository for all long-term, short-term, interstate as well as intra-state projects. With the help of the Renewable Energy Management Centres, we aim to forecast better for all the projects. In the case of events such as solar eclipse, we have seen a major loss of power, which, if forecasted and backed up with other reserves, could have helped. When the solar eclipse happened in June 2019, we experienced a loss of approximately 6.5 GW, and in the June 2020 solar eclipse, we lost approximately 11.16 GW. This can range up to 50-60 GW in 2030. We aim to help developers and policymakers with a reliable and concise information which will also help DISCOMs meet their RPO targets.”

Jafar said, “Consumers are now looking at round-the-clock power, which helps them meet all their power requirements without intermittency. Companies have now set targets with a roadmap that helps them define their exact requirements. With organized players in the market providing all the details to these corporates, they can make more informed decisions in the long term. The product and the expected consumer benefits need to be synced with the best price.”

Rooftop Solar Demand in C&I

Nagpal said, “We promote both residential and commercial rooftop solar through our various awareness campaigns and have ensured we provide a one-stop portal for all our consumers. We also see a group net metering as the next upcoming thing across Delhi, where multiple entities come together to derive the benefits from the rooftop solar. “

Jafar felt the country could miss the 2022 target set for rooftop solar. “People who postponed the switch to rooftop solar previously thinking the prices would reduce have now realized that there is an upward trend in the prices and are now rushing the switch. Consumers have now understood the benefits of solar, and it is no longer just the savings but also achieving the net-zero targets and procuring more green energy. Consumers also want more certainty, so they look for developers who can provide end-to-end service including operation and maintenance.”

Bhat said most businesses who wish to continue concentrating on their core businesses opt for the OPEX model, and the ones who are price sensitive and wish to deploy their capital primarily opt for CAPEX models. With the flexibility of achieving partial to full power through rooftop and the exchanges, businesses feel more encouraged to make the switch faster to meet their net zero goals.

Agarwal stressed the importance of real-time monitoring to help understand the impact of rooftop solar on the grid. Some states do that through their distribution system operators. “We have to also look at establishing different centers for forecasting and managing the intermittency through flexible energy generation from other reserves.”

Mercom recently hosted its C&I Clean Energy Meet 2022 in Bengaluru, where the C&I entities expressed their eagerness to switch to clean energy and save on their power bills in the long term.

The event organized by Mercom brought industry stakeholders and end consumers face to face to discuss how this transition could be made with ease. Mercom India plans to host more industry-focused C&I events in Pune, Chennai, Coimbatore, Ahmedabad, and Noida.