Citizens' Issues
How to electrify the country using free and renewable energy!
The Modi government can consider increasing subsidy on solar installations to 40% to make it more popular. Such a move will also reduce the over dependence on imported fuel, and our domestic production can be diverted to other areas such as industries
 
On assuming office as the minister of state for power, coal and new and renewable energy, Piyush Goyal plans to visit Gujarat, with his team, to have first hand information and draw lessons from the State's experience in renewable energy.  It is true that, among the states, Gujarat has an edge in solar power generation.
 
India's middle class, whom you can no longer call as aam aadmi is actually growing by the hour! Everyone is adding an appliance or two almost on a regular basis, all of which consume electric power. If the food is getting cold, it is not a big problem, as one can always have it suitably reheated, thanks to the handy microwave at home.  Yes, it is hot in summer, but with a large fridge, chilled water is at hand.  Most houses do boast of more than one TV set and many have at least two airconditioners in use, practically the whole day!
 
Our power generation is not able to keep with this growing demand. Coal, which is the main source of fuel supply, is falling short and unable to meet the production needs, resulting in imports, though, India sits on the world's third largest reserves, and Coal India is the largest miner in the globe! Other power sources, such as oil and gas are also in short supply and our imports of these are substantial.
 
Unfortunately, the abundant and uninterrupted supply of solar power, during the day, has remained unutilized.  In fact, electric power generated through solar cells forms less than one percent of electricity generated in India. A number of companies offer solar power by installing these solar cells on roof tops.  A list of contractors who can make this service available is detailed in http://mnre.gov.in/.
 
It may be noted that the Ministry of New and Renewable Energy provides a 30% capital subsidy on project cost, which means, the consumer who has these installed at his/her roof top pays 70% and the contractor obtains the balance of 30% from the government.  We have to assume that Piyush Goyal is automatically in charge of this Ministry.  Or, we should presume that the above ministry has become part of the Ministry, headed by Goyal.
 
Generation of solar power becomes cheaper once the installation has been done and maintenance becomes easy.  This is necessary particularly in areas, which experiences severe cold conditions in winter, most in the north of India and in all the hilly places.
 
How can the government go about propagating the the use of solar panels to generate power?  Here are a few recommendations for consideration and comments by our readers:
 
a) make it obligatory for all new buildings to install solar heater (in cold areas) and solar panels to meet the occupants needs
 
b) all existing buildings must follow suite, as mentioned above, within six months and State power ministry officials will monitor the progress in compliance
 
c) the Ministry will revise and renew the list of contractors every six months and any major changes in the interim period
 
d) all public works department, in charge of road lighting, will have to employ conversion technique to switch over to solar panel/battery operated street lights
 
e) all the contractors executing national highways have to similarly switchover to solar lighting by conversion of these lamp posts; this must apply to completed contracts and new ones under construction
 
f) modified equipments be made available to farmers, who use diesel generating sets to pump out water, by providing solar cell operated equipments
 
g) if an applicant to get solar panels installed on his/her roof top is unable to meet the 70% cost of the eq uipments, his banker be authorized to provide the funds at reduced rate of interest and EMI may be arranged over a period of 5/7 years
 
h) all builders and contractors of housing colonies need to ensure arrangements are made for use of solar panels to meet the common requirements for internal street lighting, and other similar needs
 
i)  all forms of public transport systems - railways, wagons, buses must be encouraged to get Research and Development done so that these Solar Panels are on the roof top of their moving parts! Research can ensure that the power generated thus can be stored in suitable batteries attached to them.
 
j)  over a period of time, individual house owners, who have installed solar panels, are encouraged to form a power grid in their locality, and excess power can be  marketed to others, including supply back to the electricity boards
 
At the moment, it appears that solar panels are expensive and this prevents even the middle class to think before going in for installing such equipments. A subsidy of 30% is a good start, but, perhaps, the government can consider making it more to 40% so that there is popular support to the scheme.  Such a move will also reduce the over dependence on imported fuel, and our domestic production can be diverted to other areas such as industries. Ultimately, the mass production of these solar panels will reduce the unit cost of  power generation to make it viable for everyone to buy these.     
 
(AK Ramdas has worked with the Engineering Export Promotion Council of the ministry of commerce. He was also associated with various committees of the Council. His international career took him to places like Beirut, Kuwait and Dubai at a time when these were small trading outposts; and later to the US.)

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COMMENTS

J Thomas

3 years ago

The cost of solar installations has come down while grid power is becoming increasingly expensive. Solar is now close to grid parity. It will take off even without subsidy.

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