Even in India’s sunny cities, rooftop solar systems come under a cloud

With its many advantages, rooftop solar systems could have been the most popular power alternative in India’s homes and establishments: It is sustainable, causes minimal distribution losses, allows dedicated transmission and requires no land use. Yet, as of December 2020, it makes for only about 20% of all the solar energy capacity installed in the country–6,792 MW of the total of 34,197 MW.

To understand the reasons, we picked Nagpur, a central Indian city with 300 sunny days a year, for a two-part investigation. The average annual solar radiation in Nagpur is about 5.09 kWh/m2/day. To put it in context, 90% of India receives 5 kWh/m2/day of solar radiation, but only in summer months.

Despite this advantage, of the 532,000 properties with solar rooftop potential in Nagpur, only 2,528 (0.47%) have actually installed it–2,187 residential properties and 341 non-residential, commercial or mixed use. As an incentive, the city’s municipal corporation offers a 5% discount on property tax for those using rooftop systems but even that has not helped much, we found.

What are the reasons for the slow growth of the rooftop solar sector in Nagpur, and the rest of Maharashtra? High costs, tedious application and installation procedures, and tardy delivery of services are some hurdles, we report in this first of a two-part series focussed on consumer issues.

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