Par panel asks MNRE to increase solar capacity target under CPSU scheme

New Delhi, Mar 28 (PTI): A parliamentary panel has asked the Ministry of New & Renewable Energy (MNRE) to increase the capacity addition target under the scheme for setting up grid-connected solar projects by CPSUs and to take pro-active steps to encourage more participation from these units.

MNRE is implementing the scheme for setting up grid-connected solar PV power projects by central public sector undertakings (CPSUs) and government organizations with Viability Gap Funding (VGF).

As per the scheme, these projects are implemented with domestically manufactured solar cells and modules.

“Target under the scheme for setting up of grid-connected solar PV power projects by CPSUs and government organizations should be increased.

“Since only a few CPSUs have participated in the scheme till date, the Ministry should take pro-active steps and encourage more CPSUs/government organizations to participate in the scheme,” said Parliamentary Standing Committee on Energy in its 17th report tabled in Parliament earlier this month.

On providing VGF under the scheme, MNRE explained that VGF provided under the scheme envisages to cover cost difference between domestically-produced solar PV cells and modules and the imported ones.

MNRE has also submitted that under CPSU Scheme Phase-II, there is no concept of quoting of tariffs and the bidders are required to quote VGF, the maximum permissible limit for which is Rs 70 lakh/MW.

Under Phase-I of the scheme of 1000 MW, nine CPSUs participated. These are NTPC, BHEL, Rashtriya Ispat Nigam, NHPC, ONGC, GAIL , Scooters India, Dadra & Nagar Haveli Power Distribution Corporation and NLC India.

Under CPSU Scheme Phase-II of 12000 MW, seven CPSUs/ government organizations have participated so far. These are NHDC, Singareni Collieries Company, Assam Power Distribution Company, Delhi Metro Rail Corporation, Nalanda University, NTPC and Indore Municipal Corporation.

The panel also noted that the target set for solar rooftops cannot be achieved without proper implementation of the Net/Gross Metering and there is a need to maintain uniformity in terms of regulations/model operating procedures/online unified portals etc.

It noted that all the State/Joint Electricity Regulatory Commissions have issued net metering regulations/tariff orders but there is lack of uniformity in this regard.

It observed that in most of the states and Union territories, there is no proper payment mechanism for excess units exported to the grid and the same are generally adjusted in the electricity bill itself.

After analyzing the advantages and disadvantages of both the arrangements, the ministry should ensure proper implementation of Net/Gross Metering arrangements in the country through consultations with all the stakeholders so that both distribution companies (DISCOMs) as well as the consumers get a fair deal, it suggested.

The panel found that the targets set with respect to solar rooftop are extremely unrealistic as compared to actual achievements.

It rued that since 2015-16, till date, the ministry has never been able to cross the figure of 500 MW installed solar rooftop capacity in any year even as an exaggerated and unrealistic target of 17000 MW has been set to be achieved in just nine months of 2022-23 (April to 31 December, 2022).

The committee opined that given the performance of the ministry in this sector till date, the rooftop solar target of 40GW by 2022 is highly unlikely to be achieved with the present pace of progress.

The panel noted that out of the assistance provided by the MNRE, only 1948 MW of solar power rooftop could be installed in more than five years (from April 1, 2015 to June 30, 2020).

The phase II of the grid-connected rooftop solar programme was approved in February 2019 with a target of achieving cumulative capacity of 40,000 MW from Rooftop Solar (RTS) projects by the year 2022.

However, the panel noted that against the annual target of 3000 MW, only 472 MW could be achieved during 2019-20, while still higher targets have been set for subsequent years that is 2020-21; 2021-22 and 2022-23 (up to 31 December, 2022) such as 6000 MW, 12000 MW and 17000 MW, respectively.

It suggested that MNRE should widely advertise the benefits of having rooftop solar power system and also about the incentives being provided by the government for the same in all vernacular print and electronic media so as to spread awareness among the masses.

It also suggested that a Single Window Clearance System should be put in place, in the first phase, in all district headquarters in the country to provide all assistance/services/information to the customers and facilitate them in getting rooftop solar system installed in hassle-free manner.

The panel is of the view that the process of subsidy disbursement should be made transparent, simpler and faster through the Single Window Clearance System and preferably a digital platform be developed for this purpose to reduce human contact in the process.

It recommended that the ministry may consider providing subsidy based on income criteria with a view to offering a higher subsidy for the customers in lower income group.

The ministry needs to draw a time bound plan across all states and Union Territories by which solar rooftop system should be installed on all government buildings, it added.