Soon, Bengaluru residents can rent out their rooftop space to a third party to set up a solar plant and get paid a monthly rent for their troubles. That is, if a proposal by Bangalore Electricity Supply Corporation Limited (BESCOM) to the Karnataka Electricity Regulatory Commission (KERC) on using vacant rooftops to generate solar energy and incentivise the owner, is accepted.
A report with several models to encourage the installation of solar panels on rooftops in the city was drawn up by the BESCOM earlier this week. The report which is titled 'Decision on Various Models and Guidelines for Solar Rooftop Photovoltaic Plants allowed to be installed on rooftops of the consumersâ€™ buildings' was made public by BESCOM on December 9.
In the report, BESCOM recognises a consumer-owned model, utility-owned model, and a third-party owned model.
While the first two models were in place earlier, BESCOM is hoping to introduce a third-party owned model to encourage more rooftop solar plants in the city. In the third-party owned model, a developer/investor can install, own and operate solar plants on the rooftop by paying a monthly rent for the space used.
In this case, the consumer is not the owner of the solar unit installed on the rooftop of a building. The consumer simply buys energy from a developer who installs and operates the rooftop solar unit for a fixed period.
"The developer of the solar plant will pay rent to the owner of the space on the rooftop of the building to allow the plant to be set up," explains Rajesh Gowda, the Managing Director of BESCOM.
This is in contrast to the consumer-owned model and utility-owned model. In the consumer-owned model, a consumer sets up a solar plant on the rooftop of their building and generates solar power. In the utility-owned model, BESCOM will install solar panels on the rooftop of a consumer after taking loans from banks. BESCOM will maintain the solar plant and pay rent to the owner of the space.
But according to BESCOM officials, these two models did not incentivise large-scale solar power generation on rooftops. This is partly due to the fact that the capacity of solar rooftop projects cannot be more than the load sanctioned to the consumer.
BESCOM earlier stated that despite 1,892 solar rooftop projects sanctioned in the city since 2015, only 126.04 MW of power is being generated. This is in stark contrast to the target set in Karnatakaâ€™s Solar Policy 2014â€“21. It has set a target of 6,000-MW solar projects, among which rooftop solar projects will contribute 2,400 MW to the grid. "We want to achieve the target set for us and we believe incentivising third party developers to install solar plants will allow us to do that," Rajesh added.
Officials added that a net-metering system will be followed for residential customers while a gross metering system will be followed for non-residential customers. According to BESCOM, in net-metering system, the energy generated by the solar rooftop plant is first allowed for self-consumption and the excess energy is injected to the grid. In gross metering system, the total energy generated by the solar rooftop plant is to be injected into the grid without allowing the generated solar energy to be consumed directly by the consumer.
The Karnataka government has also developed a solar park in Pavagada in Tumakuru district by leasing 13,000-acres. The solar park aims to generate 2000 MW of power by 2020 but solar experts say that a solar park is dependant on finding suitable land and needs water resources to clean the panels regularly, a cost that is likely to be too high. Instead, experts have urged the government to decentralise solar power generation and encourage rooftop installation of solar panels.