At its current rate of improvisation, we are still eons away from having a one stop window where a consumer can apply for rooftop solar with all necessary documentations, approvals and be rest assured that the services paid for would be rendered to him without having to run from pillar to post.
Net metering facility made available by electricity DISCOMs has provided a huge boost to the total number of rooftop solar installations being carried out. Across industrial, commercial, recreational and residential segments there has been a steady incline with patron`s apprehensions taking a back seat after witnessing peers having successfully installed rooftop solar installations.
Several new integrators have flooded the market, be it RCC, metal sheet, asbestos roof both penetrative and non-penetrative installations are available as an array of options for consumers to choose from. There has been a mammoth leap in the technologies available, bringing them at par with world-class standards. However the same cannot be praised about the implementation of net metering with local DISCOMs.
Although net metering has been made available to all consumers based on their contract demand, the tedious paper work involved right from filing of the application, conducting pre-feasibility, sanctioning of proposed system, installation, work completion, commissioning and reflection of its benefits in the consumer’s electricity bill could make you wonder if these processes were adopted from stone age itself. Also, there is no fixed timeline for the entire process to be completed. In some cases, it takes about month and half and non-stop follow-up just to complete the feasibility study. There needs to be compliance on the time frame that needs to be judiciously followed by the DISCOMs in completing the various processes if the consumer has submitted all adequate documentation.
DISCOMs utilise these technical checks to verify any shortcomings in implementation of regulation changes from their end within the consumer`s premises, which sometimes ends up as an additional expenditure for the consumer which is primarily not essential for installing a solar PV system. Bottlenecks have developed as the solar rooftop net metering policy has been latched on to an already vast and multi layered system structured to service only billing and new connection requirements of consumers. This has forced menial checks and procedures of the outdated system to become a part of the new system. It is high time that certified net meters be procured by the DISCOM and be made readily available. Expecting the consumer to understand makes of meters, procure and test these meters is unfair.
The signatory authorities who have been trained to streamline net metering processes even though supportive of consumer`s noble initiative to go solar, view the responsibility as an additional work burdened onto them. With no universal implementation handbook or rule book available, each official has developed their own benchmark based on past experiences to safeguard both the DISCOM and the consumer`s interest.
Such roadblocks are part and parcel of any innovation, but they need to be identified and rectified at the earliest to ensure a gradual growth. At its current rate of improvisation, we are still eons away from having a one stop window where a consumer can apply for rooftop solar with all necessary documentations, approvals and be rest assured that the services paid for would be rendered to him without having to run from pillar to post. With the number of consumers opting for net metered systems set to increase, the authorities will eventually have to set up a separate division to cater to these needs.
Uday Doshi, Founder,
Excelsior engineering Solutions, Mumbai
(views expressed are personal)