MNRE Asks State Agencies to Implement Rules for Faster Rooftop Solar Adoption

DISCOMs have approved only 21% of rooftop solar applications


The Ministry of New and Renewable Energy (MNRE) has written to State Electricity Regulatory Authorities (SERCs) and power distribution companies (DISCOMs) across the country reiterating that they must expedite the implementation of the processes laid out under the Electricity (Rights of Consumers) Rules, 2020, which was notified by the Ministry of Power.

The rules provide an enabling framework for making rooftop solar installations attractive to consumers by providing fast approvals and imposing fines for violating consumer rights.

The ministry said delays discourage consumers from contributing to the national goal of achieving 500 GW of capacity from non-fossil sources by 2030 and also violate the right of consumers.

The inordinate delay by state regulators and other related agencies is part of the reason for India’s poor performance in rooftop installation.

The country has a cumulative installed rooftop solar capacity of 8.3 GW at the end of September against a target of 40 GW by 2022. Due to the inability to achieve this target, the ministry extended the grid-connected rooftop solar program until March 31, 2026.

In Parliament, Union power minister R.K. Singh said the COVID-19 pandemic significantly impacted the program’s implementation, causing DISCOMs and state implementing agencies to request extensions for project execution.

He noted that the other obstacles that led to the reduced number of installations were the revenue loss for DISCOMs, delays in approvals and installations of net/gross meters, and lack of awareness.

In comparison, India has installed 45.6 GW of utility-scale solar capacity to date, 14.4 GW shy of meeting the target of installing 60 GW by 2022.

The ministry has also developed a national portal to facilitate the simplified process to install rooftop solar systems in residential premises. Since its launch, the portal has registered more than 79,000 residential consumers and received more than 31,000 applications for rooftop solar installations.

The ministry issued a new subsidy program for rooftop solar systems, extending the subsidy for systems above 10 kW. The subsidies will be deposited into the bank accounts of residential consumers after the installation and inspection of the system have been completed.

However, technical feasibility approval has only been given to around 6,500 of these consumers, and some DISCOMs have not initiated the approval process, leading to delays of several months.

The rules notified two years ago require the Commissions to notify standards of performance (SOPs) and determine the compensation to be paid to consumers by DISCOMs for violating SOPs. The regulators are also required to notify regulations for the compensation mechanism within six months.

These rules also require the DISCOMs to facilitate the process of setting up renewable energy systems by creating an online portal and mobile app with detailed information and an application tracking mechanism.

It further mandates that the metering and commissioning of the renewable energy system must be completed within 30 days from the submission of installation information by the prosumer.

If DISCOM fails to meet this timeline without a reasonable cause, it will have to pay compensation to the consumer at a rate of at least ₹500 (~$6) per day for each day of default.

India installed over 1.2 GW of rooftop solar capacity in the first nine months of the calendar year 2022, a decline of 11% year-over-year, according to the Mercom India Rooftop Solar Market Report Q3 2022.