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Why Are Discoms Missing A Role When It Comes To Rooftop Solar?


Indian Government has set a goal to reach 100 GW solar by 2022 and is constantly working on it. The fact of the matter is that the Government might actually get close to the set digit from some ongoing prominent projects but the matter of concern here is in the 100GW target, the rooftop solar component, is way behind its 40GW target, with barely 3.85GW in place till date. In fact, if we map only the net metering projects, then the total number of rooftop solar panels drop to a 2.3 GW. Almost all the blame for this slow implementation is on discoms, who play a crucial role in power distribution chain.

According to the report by The Distribution Utilities Forum (DUF), an initiative by The Energy & Resources Institute (TERI) and Shakti Sustainable Energy Foundation (SSEF), on issues faced by discoms in implementing Rooftop Solar, the key threats are mentioned below

1. Fall In Revenue- The biggest threat to discoms is the shift of their loyal customers to solar panels due to available roofspace, capital and more additional benefits of solar. Due to this shift, the utility suppliers may face losses and lose their most dependable customers through whom they earn.

2. Over Supply Of Energy- As the excess of electricity generated by solar panels is exported into the grid. Discoms contend that when this happens, they will still bestuck with their PPA’s signed with legacy generation firms, making oversupply a real loss proposition for them.

3. Metering And Billing- Another issue that Discoms face is calculation of the units produced. They need more updated techniques and trained manpower and have to learn newer ways to calculate energy. Instead of Net Metering, discoms find gross metering a bit easy, due to the simpler calculations required, plus ability for the discom to better predict solar contributions to the grid and plan better.

4. Power Quality Issues- Discoms face power quality issues such as harmonic distortions, managing peak load with intermittent solar rooftop generation, problem with forecasting and scheduling of generation from solar rooftop and more. They are hardly proficient in it.

5. Manpower limitations- This has been blamed for the delays too, since solar installations require coordination with several implementing agencies, like Chief Electrical Inspector approval, State Nodal Agency (SNA), coordination for subsidy, banks approval for loans, rooftop owners, developers/ aggregators/EPC contractors final decision for project implementation, etc. This slows the process.

6. Grid used as backup power- Some discoms claim that this issue has an impact on both, financial and operational aspects as the ‘prosumers’ use their excess solar generation exported to the grid during off-peak hours to settle energy imported from the grid during peak time. In the process, the utility grid is treated as a back-up power source by the ‘prosumers’.>

On the positive side, Most of the Discoms said that solar rooftop systems helps in the reduction of T&D loss, avoid over-loading of distribution transformers (DTs) & network congestion and also helps in meeting the demand with higher degree of reliability.

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