The Uttarakhand Electricity Regulatory Commission (UERC) has allowed Military Engineer Services (MES) branches at Roorkee and Dehradun to set up a 2 MW grid-connected rooftop solar system each under net metering mechanism as a one-time exception.
The current ceiling for net metering of grid-connected rooftop solar installations is 1 MW. Uttarakhand Regulatory Commission has clarified that the decision is case-specific and should not become a precedent in other projects.
The Ministry of New & Renewable Energy (MNRE) had launched a 300 MW Solar Project Defense Scheme to be implemented by defense organizations all over the country.
Under the program, 150 MW was allocated to the Department of Defense to implement solar projects at various defense locations.
MES, the government defense agency which provides the infrastructure for the Indian armed forces, became the implementing agency on behalf of the Department of Defense. It was set to install a 2 MW solar project each at Dehradun and Roorkee Cantonment. MES requested the regulator to allow them to install the solar systems having a capacity of 2 MW each under the net metering program.
The Uttarakhand Power Corporation Ltd. (UPCL), one of the respondents in the case, objected to the request for the net metering arrangement, as it was available for a capacity up to 1 MW only. The ceiling of net metering prevalent in most states is 1 MW.
Based on the proposal of Uttarakhand Renewable Energy Development Agency (UREDA), it was mutually agreed that the petitioners should file supplementary petitions requesting the Commission for connectivity from UPCL after agreeing that the surplus power in a billing period would be supplied to UPCL free of cost.
MES agreed to this proposal and filed a supplementary petition stating the same.
UPCL also argued that if projects having large capacity are allowed to be installed under the net metering arrangement, it can result in an intermittent and unpredictable integration of solar power into the grid.
Adding to the argument further, UPCL submitted that an unrestricted approval of solar projects could lead to a mismatch in infrastructure causing damage to the distribution equipment. It added that such policy initiatives of allowing the installation of residential rooftop systems would further increase pressure on the grid. It would also have an adverse impact on the grid, demand pattern, and power planning of UPCL.
The regulator observed that during the day, the average load for MES Roorkee varied between 1.57 MW and 2.12 MW. For MES Dehradun, it was between 0.79 MW and 1.30 MW.
MES Roorkee and MES Dehradun are connected at 33 kV line of UPCL, and their contracted load is 2960 kW and 3685 kW, respectively.
Further, it noted that MES is not a domestic consumer, and the petitions have been filed seeking only case-specific approval for enhancing the ceiling limit of 1 MW to 2 MW wherein surplus power in a billing cycle would be supplied to UPCL free of cost.
The Commission added that the provision of installing a project having its capacity up to 80% of the sanctioned load would not be altered in this case. It added that the approved loads of both the connections are around 3 MW, and 80% of it would be 2.40 MW. The capacity to be installed is 2 MW each, which is lower than 80% of their sanctioned load.
“Accordingly, with the installation of 2 MW solar power project, surplus power injected into the grid will not be substantial. Hence, it can be safely assumed that it will not lead to unwanted interruption,” the regulator said in the order.
Distribution licensee can utilize the gross solar energy generated from the projects for meeting its solar renewable purchase obligation (RPO) compliance, UERC noted. The Commission observed that solar energy procurement from the preferential tariff would be only 371.77 million units (MUs) against the RPO target of 658.57 MUs for FY 2020-21. Accordingly, the solar energy generation from these two proposed projects will also help UPCL meet its solar RPO to some extent. Uttarakhand has a solar RPO deficit of 82.75 MUs at the end of the financial year 2019-2020.
Considering all these arguments, the state body approved the petition as a special case. The order stated that MES would not be required to execute contracts for electricity supply or power purchase agreement. The Commission has asked MES to approach UREDA to obtain a grid feasibility report from UPCL and permission for net metering.
But states have been making exceptions in cases involving large government entities. In the cases of Southern Railway and Noida Metro Rail Corporation, exceptions were made when the state electricity regulators approved net metering for a 4 MW and 10 MW project, respectively.
Debjoy Sengupta is a Senior Assistant Editor at Mercom. Debjoy brings more than two decades of experience in frontline journalism, spending most of his career working for dailies like Business Standard and The Economic Times. He has reported on a vast array of sectors, including power and renewables. A graduate in business economics, Debjoy is an amateur 3D digital artist and a photographer. More articles from Debjoy Sengupta.