Amended consumer rights rules by power ministry likely to impact India’s private rooftop solar capacity

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The latest rules regarding the consumer rights laid down by the Union power ministry is likely to impede the pace of capacity addition of the rooftop solar in the country. The amendments made by the Ministry of Power purports to disincentivise commercial and industrial users from installing such power generation capacities in their premises.

While such consumers were earlier earning around Rs 7/unit by selling the surplus power generated from their rooftop solar plants to the state-run power distribution companies (discoms), under the new mandate they will be billed through “gross metering”, and compensated at rates close to the average power purchase cost of discoms which ranges around Rs 3.5– Rs 4/unit.

The National Solar Energy Federation of India has requested power minister RK Singh to amend the provision on gross metering for larger rooftop consumers, pointing out that “investment to the tune of Rs 1,500 – 2,000 crore is either under contract or under commissioning phase” for such rooftop capacities and the new mandate “will create uncertainty and impact the ongoing projects”.

Out of the total solar capacity of 36,910 MW, only 3,402 MW currently comes from rooftop solar. The government aims to have 40,000 MW of rooftop solar capacity by 2022.

At present, the commercial and industrial consumers with rooftop solar capacities export anywhere between 5-50% of solar power generated during the day to discoms at prevailing retail rates. However, after the new provisions are implemented, the return of investors in rooftop plants will significantly reduce, giving them no reason to spend money on installing rooftop solar plants. Almost 85-90% of the new capacities that would have come to commercial and industrial segment will be completely wiped out because of gross metering provisions. 

The new provisions are seen to help the ailing state-run discoms which are reluctant to let go of their higher-paying commercial and industrial consumers. When high-paying commercial and industrial users start buying less power from discoms, low paying consumers like residential customers will end up paying more. 

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