Sense of Protection: A Necessity for Protecting Consumers and Raising Demand in Indian Solar Sector

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India’s involvement in renewable energy revolution has brought the country huge applaud in the global podium. The country has practically ignored the short comings of limited industrial infrastructure and surprisingly closing in to become the third largest solar market in the world (derailing Japan). India growing from 5 GW of solar capacity in 2015 to 12 GW in 2017 is a leap that only handful of developed countries have shown in solar sector. Indian rooftop solar is also gearing up to take lead in the global industry showing incredible growth from 72 MW per year to 227 per year. It is important to mention that Indian rooftop solar capacity has crossed 1 GW milestone, indicating near about 113 per cent growth in 2016 over 2015.

However, the country is far from catching up dominant solar players. The question here is- is it just lack of industrial momentum, or something else?

The Hurdle

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Although, surveys and polls showcase increasing public interest in shifting to solar, with government focusing on net-metering (30 states and UTs in India have net-metering policies), and offering 30 per cent subsidy for rooftop installation, the country is still failing to tap into its rooftop solar growth potential. It is surprising to note that India has 1,24,000 MW of rooftop solar potential, and solarising only 1.3 per cent of its residential establishments can cover more than 30 per cent of that said potential. But, somehow India has failed to reach that solar capacity.

Obviously, Indian solar sector is at a nascent stage and would require time to change the scenarios. But, lack of residential solarisation (India has 377 MW industrial, 263 MW commercial and only 260 MW residential installations) seems to be the hurdle limiting rooftop solar growth. Sure, there are challenges like- lack of schemes, policies, lack of information on solar energy benefits, and infrastructural limitations. But, a closer inspection would highlight that lack of sense of protection is turning consumers hesitant about going solar.

Current Scenario

Although there are 300 million homes in India, only 2.8 GW of solar capacity was achieved within February 2017, out of 12,000MW (10,500MW ground-mounted and 1,500MW rooftop solar) target in 2016-17 (till 31 March 2017).

Government’s initiatives such as- Central Electricity Authority of India planning to add close to 24 GW rooftop solar in 2027, allocation of Rs5,000 crores for growth in grid connected rooftop solar systems, and introduction of large tenders on solar rooftop installations (1,000 MW by SECI) testify country’s intent and focus on rooftop solar. In the same breath, metropolitan cities like Delhi, Tamil Nadu failing to showcase growth in rooftop sector (Delhi has 35.9 MW of solar rooftop capacity. And about 3 MW is residential) indicate a gap in bringing common man (residents) in the fold of solar revolution.

Splitting Atom

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Before diving deep into complex issues that create constraints in the path of rooftop solar growth, we need to highlight the primary problem, which is surprisingly the simplest one. Solar energy is new in India, and despite Government’s encouragement and policy support to the industry, the county needs awareness to dispel confusions.

Questions involving finding the best module supplier, quality of the products, warranty, maintenance, and repairing modules- confuse people, and in hesitation, people divert to using conventional energy rather than green energy.

The ‘Make in India’ initiative had made quite the impression on common man, giving them a sense of protection. However, Chinese modules continuing to claim larger portions of the domestic market (8 out of 10 module suppliers in India are Chinese), and selling products at more than 8 per cent cheaper rates than domestic modules has introduced an issue of trust on the solar energy.

To remedy the situation, Indian Government needs to initiate more awareness campaigns and provide information that will add security to customer’s understanding of solar rooftop implementation, helping them make the right decision.

To Remedy the Problem

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As India is trying to phase out fossil fuel and implement country wide solar installations, involving common man in the fold has to have great importance. Although, solar educational campaigns are happening around the country, they rarely touch subjects like- which is the best module supplier, warranty, maintenance etc. Without having comprehensive knowledge on solar benefits and how to ensure performance continuity, it is tough for Indian rooftop consumers to go solar. Even the consumers who are thinking of opting for community solar solutions, are confused as performance guarantee of foreign modules are in question (for more information on foreign module quality).

To remedy the problem, better focus on domestic manufacturing sector is obvious. This will make the solar growth in India tangible and allow awareness to seep through communities, encouraging people to opt for rooftop solar.

Besides, Indian Government needs to provide information on best module suppliers and EPC solution providers to help consumers find best modules and services, getting a sense of security. It has to be comprehensive education program stressing upon the points that can provide protection against low quality modules and quick performance degradation. The consumers should learn to enquire about PV module safety, quality, and how the modules have performed during tests. For Quality, the consumers should know to only get PV modules with IEC 61215 certification. And UL 1703 standards must be maintained in a PV module to standardize its safety features.

Falling solar tariffs (2.62/per unit in 2017) and influx of low quality foreign modules in the industry have also brought up the issue of module performance and solar suppliers going bankrupt. In such a scenario, maintenance, repairs (if need be), and warranty of solar modules comes into question. Getting modules from reputed domestic solar manufactures who have deep seated roots in the industry would be wise for the consumer. As these manufacturers follow quality and performance guidelines to maintain their market share. And Indian Government needs to help people identify those suppliers. Information on the module lifespan should also be a part of the awareness program.

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An aware Indian will be a more involved Indian in regards of solar energy revolution. And as the country pursues ‘Power for all’ initiative, the best way to illuminate all of its households is to bring common man in the fold. Raising awareness in the grass root levels can increase rooftop growth rate in the residential areas making country wide solar growth a success.

Bibliography:

http://www.theenergycollective.com/peter-varadi/2406244/consumer-protection-pv-systems-finally-limelight

Follow me on Twitter – @GyaneshC

 

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