Power failures are still common across India and more than 4000 villages still remain without access to electricity. May 2018 was supposed to be the year when India would finally achieve 100 percent electrification in its villages but sadly that didn’t happen. Cities are in a better shape but the overall figures still disappoints. The country clearly needs to look at other sources of power to spread light to rural areas.
The Sun is The Answer
Solar energy can be the answer to India’s energy problems. Installation of residential solar panels on the rooftops could offer a practical and fast solution to energy problems in rural India where more than 60 per cent of the Indian population is to be found. There are solar panels for home which can have mini-grid or off-grid installation and these can help to bring electricity to areas which are still un-electrified.
Growth in Rooftop Solar Sector
Rooftop solar installations in India have seen a slow but steady growth from 72 MW per year to 227 MW per year since 2013. Policies and schemes offering custom duty concession, tax holidays and excise duty exemption have led to this rise but more needs to be in place to encourage local solar panel manufacturers in India. Right now, India is heavily dependent on China for the import of photo-voltaic cells which are used in the solar panels and India will need to import $42 billion of solar equipment by 2030, which will be equal to 100 GW of installed capacity.
However despite the scenario, states such as Tamil Nadu, Gujarat and Maharashtra are making progress in utilizing solar panel installations.
As pointed out earlier, residential installation of solar panels has also been given increased importance by the government with foreign investment commitments of around 1.5 billion USD, net metering facilities in 30 out of 36 states and union territories and a 30 per cent subsidy to residential and not-for-profit institutional investors. These have led to growth in the residential rooftop solar industry and growth of solar companies.
Solar Vs Diesel Generators
If this was not enough, recent studies have shown that solar panel generated electricity is more affordable than diesel generators. Diesel generators are the standard now in places across the country where grid connectivity is poor or non-existent. Studies by the Centre for Science and Environment (CSE) have shown that diesel generators cost between 15-20 units of electricity whereas rooftop solar energy costs only INR 5-6 unit. The study carried out in residential installations around Delhi, Haryana, UP and Rajasthan shows that solar panels definitely have an edge.
Added to this if certain long-standing proposals of NGOs such as making solar rooftop installations mandatory for residential societies, banning diesel generator sets as they cost a lot and pollute the environment are implemented along with support for mini-grid and off-grid solar installations in private households and local communities, India can be electrified much faster and India’s energy problems can be solved. Increased manufacture and expansion of the consumer market for solar panels will also mean solar panel prices coming down and becoming more affordable.
The Future Looks Bright
The Centre for Science and Environment is developing a website with a solar calculator on it that will help people to easily calculate their energy costs if they go solar. Such developments along with the things mentioned above should leave us with little doubt that it is just a matter of time before solar energy solves India’s energy problems and solar energy is ready to fill the energy gap in India.