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The Ministry of New and Renewable Energy (MNRE) has invited feedback from stakeholders on its draft standard operating procedures for Virtual Net Metering and Group Net Metering to overcome the challenges in providing rural households with rooftop solar power.
Stakeholders can provide their suggestions and comments by August 31, 2022.
The ministry said most residential rooftop solar installations had been installed in urban areas where household roofs have sufficient strength to support the installation of rooftop solar systems. In rural areas, rooftop solar installations are minimal because rooftops do not have sufficient strength to install solar structures. This deprives households in rural areas of the benefit of rooftop solar
Another reason for the limited adoption of rooftop solar in rural areas is the comparatively lower retail electricity tariff. People are also in the lower income group without sufficient resources for the initial investment of rooftop solar.
To overcome the challenge, the ministry has proposed that instead of households installing individual systems on their rooftops, they can be aggregated and installed at a single place on land, either taken on lease or belonging to panchayats. The plants can be developed in RESCO/CAPEX mode with the facility of net metering available to individual households, with the solar generation proportionately adjusted in the electricity bills of each household on either the Virtual Net Metering or Group Net Metering mode.
The ministry said this mechanism could improve electricity supply in rural areas, reduce transmission and distribution losses, and improve the financial position of distribution companies as the consumption towards the subsidized category will be reduced. Such plants will also offer more benefits because of low cost due to economies of scale and ease of operation and maintenance.
The standard operating procedures for implementation of Virtual Net Metering and Group Net Metering provides the formats of connection agreement and application for net metering, technical feasibility analysis, metering and synchronization, and energy accounting and settlement.
MNRE said that the Delhi Electricity Regulatory Commission, Joint Electricity Regulatory Commission of Goa and UTs, and Odisha Electricity Regulatory Commission had already notified guidelines on Virtual Net Metering and Group Net Metering. It requested other electricity regulatory commissions across India to notify guidelines and regulations on Virtual Net Metering and Group Net Metering.
Recently, Prime Minister Narendra Modi launched the National Portal for Rooftop Solar, enabling online tracking of the installation of rooftop solar plants. The portal will help track the developments from the application stage to the release of subsidies in the bank accounts of consumers post-installation.
MNRE issued new and simplified central financial assistance calculations for rooftop solar systems installed by residential consumers.