Government Points to DISCOMs’ Role in Tepid Rooftop Solar Installations

Many DISCOMs are yet to implement consumer-friendly rules enacted in 2020


The blame for the country’s underwhelming performance in rooftop solar installations as against the 2022 target primarily lies with the state-owned distribution companies (DISCOMs), the union minister for power hinted in his reply in Lok Sabha recently.

DISCOMs have been reluctant to aid rooftop solar installations as they fear a loss of revenue with consumers moving to another energy source, the minister said.

He added that the DISCOMs had thwarted the proliferation of rooftop systems by simply denying or delaying installations of the net and gross meters, which are essential for any consumer with a captive solar system.

The impact is reflected in the country achieving just 21% of the 2022 rooftop solar target. India has a cumulative installed capacity of just 8.3 GW until the end of September this year, as opposed to the target of 40 GW by 2022. In contrast, India has installed 52.71 GW of utility-scale solar capacity by the end of September as against the target of 60 GW by the end of the current year.

Additionally, the DISCOMs’ inability to effectively promote and facilitate rooftop installations was recently brought to the fore in a letter written by the Ministry of New and Renewable Energy (MNRE) to all the states.

It highlighted that several provisions of the Electricity (Right of Consumers) Rules, 2020 were yet to be complied with by DISCOMs. The rules provided for penalizing DISCOMs – at the rate of ₹500 (~$6) per day — in the case of delay in approving consumers’ applications for rooftop solar installations within 30 days.

“It has been observed that contrary to the provisions in the rule of providing technical feasibility within 20 days, some distribution licensees are yet to initiate the technical feasibility approval process, and the application received on the National Portal are pending for more than 2-3 months,” the letter said.

It added that such delays not only demotivate the consumers willing to contribute to the national goal of achieving 500 GW capacity in India from non-fossil sources by 2030 but are also contrary to the provision of the rules enacted in 2020.

Apart from rooftop solar progress, the DISCOMs’ frail financial health and inability to pay dues on time have impeded the general growth of the renewable industry in the country over the years.

However, there were other mitigating factors in rooftop installations, including a lack of uniform regulations, a lack of awareness, and a significant impact of the Covid-19 pandemic, the minister said.

“Ministry has also conducted a third-party evaluation of the program, and based on the recommendations, the program has been extended till 31.3.2026,” he added.

The Rooftop Solar Program Phase-II was launched in 2019. The program targeted the installation of 4,000 MW capacity in the residential sector by providing Central Financial Assistance and incentives to DISCOMs to achieve additional RTS capacity in a year over and above the installed capacity of the previous year. The program provides total central financial support of ₹118.14 billion (~$1.4 billion).