- CEEW and Bloomberg Philanthropies believe India holds 637 GW of technical potential for residential rooftop solar capacity
- Most of this potential with 363 GW exists in rural regions and 274 GW in urban areas
- Major challenges to its adoption are high capital investment and lack of awareness among people
- The report writers make a number of suggestions to increase its uptake, including targeted capital subsidies
An independent report by the Council on Energy, Environment and Water (CEEW) pegs India’s technical rooftop solar potential for residential segment at 637 GW, with more than 60% concentrated in 7 states. To exploit this, it recommends ‘right price and attractive incentives’ for residents.
Of the 637 GW, residential rooftops in the rural areas carry a potential for 363 GW thanks to a higher average roof space, while urban areas can host the remaining 274 GW. Just using 1/3rd of the total technical potential could support the entire electricity demand of the residential sector which adds up to 310 TWh, even though not all of this demand is in the daytime.
The report analysts believe the technical potential based on rooftop area for India is concentrated in system sizes above 3 kW, however current net metering regulation for rooftop solar system in most states restrict the installations to below 1 kW by specifying the minimum capacity criteria. For rural areas, the most preferred system size is under 2 kW due to lower electricity demand.
According to the CEEW, factoring in the current electricity consumption of households in India that’s low for most consumers as they fall in low-consumption slabs, this technical potential reduces to 1/5th or 118 GW. Further it declines from 102 GW to 81 GW when considering economic viability as net metering regulations reduce the economic potential.
It declines to 11 GW when the payback period is restricted to 5 years and with consumers’ limited willingness to pay in the event of no capital subsidy.
Nonetheless, CEEW analysts peg the overall potential to 32 GW when factoring in the capital subsidies offered by the Ministry of New and Renewable Energy (MNRE).
India’s 40 GW rooftop solar target under the country’s National Solar Mission (NSM) or the Jawaharlal Nehru National Solar Mission (JNNSM) was targeted to be achieved by December 31, 2022. However, At the end of October 2023, the MNRE counted 11.08 GW grid connected rooftop PV to have been installed in this segment.
The government will be looking at increasing its uptake to achieve the national target of 500 GW non-fossil fuel capacity in its electricity mix by 2030, with solar contributing 280 GW (see India Needs $223 Billion To Meet 2030 RE Goals).
Lower level of residential awareness of the benefits of rooftop solar is a big block to the growth of rooftop PV in India, which according to the CEEW, is still less than 50% at the national level. Only 3 states report awareness levels of above 60%. This along with rooftop PV systems considered as capital-intensive investments are leading barriers that impact the consumers’ willingness to buy.
Most of the awareness campaigns cater more towards the urban areas, whereas in the rural regions the awareness is more about solar pump schemes, solar water kiosks, solar lanterns, and the like.
“CEEW’s study shows the mammoth capacity of solar systems that both rural and urban households can deploy to guarantee not only a transition to clean energy but also fulfil a basic need – access to power,” said CEEW CEO Arunabha Ghosh.
He added, “But to get there, residents must get the right price and attractive incentives and enjoy a convenient experience, which can then spur the markets to create the right products and capacities for homes.”
Among the recommendations that the report writers list to scale up its adoption in India is the need to introduce targeted capital subsidies for consumers. It should especially be directed in the 0-3 kW category, with untapped potential in the 0-1 kW. Extending capital subsidy to below 1 kW category and recognizing it in state solar policies will boost its uptake across rural and semi-urban localities.
States should also consider introducing economically attractive feed-in tariffs (FIT), and also bring in enabling regulations for innovative models as community solar and solar partners. Introducing low-cost financing options with a one-stop platform for information sharing will go a long way.
At the national level, the government can invest in rolling out awareness campaigns to pique interest of the end consumers and increase their willingness to go solar.
The complete CEEW report titled Mapping India’s Residential Rooftop Solar Potential A Bottom-up Assessment Using Primary Data, brought out with Bloomberg Philanthropies, is available on its website for free download.