India’s rooftop solar installations have been growing at a healthy pace so far but could slow down in the short-term, following the imposition of the safeguard duty earlier this year. However, a dip in solar module prices could still propel the growth of the segment. Currently, rooftop solar installations make up only 11 percent of the total installed solar capacity.
The majority of rooftop installations are primarily in the government and commercial and industrial (C&I) sectors. The residential rooftop market has a negligible market share to date. Cumulative solar rooftop installations in India approached the ~2.8 GW mark as of September 2018.
To shed more light on the factors affecting the growth of rooftop solar in India, Mercom India moderated a session at the Intersolar India Exhibition and Conference called C&I Solar Rooftop Business-Prospects, Issues and Profitability. The conference, also known as Intersolar Bangalore, was a three-day event that took place from December 11 to 14, 2018 in Bangalore.
The participants in the session were: R.K. Jain, Additional General Manager (Solar), at the Solar Energy Corporation of India (SECI); Dr. Anuvrat Joshi, India Business Development Director, Cleantech Solar Energy (India) Pvt. Ltd.; Vineet Mittal, Director – Sales and Finance, Navitas Green Solutions Pvt. Ltd. (Navitas Solar) and Damian Miller, Chief Executive Officer, Orb Energy (India). Priyadarshini Sanjay, Managing Director, Mercom Communications India, moderated the session.
The industry experts discussed the current shape of the industry, outlining some best practices that can be implemented and the way forward for the rooftop sector.
- In rooftop solar sector, C&I customers are far ahead of residential consumers.
- Rooftop installations help C&I consumers in reducing their power bills as well as improve their corporate image, facilitating the fulfillment of corporate social responsibility obligations.
- Rooftop systems deliver a 3-4-year payback to C&I customers, which makes economic sense for almost every user.
- To set up top quality rooftop solar PV projects, one must focus on the following: A high-quality balance of system (BOS), an in-depth and deeply tested design and engineering mechanism, the proper execution of methods and processes, and project management practices that are safe and repeatable.
- For rooftop solar PV project installers to be successful, they must have easy access to capital.
- Distribution companies (DISCOMs) present hurdles to the rooftop solar adoption, as the rooftop sector has a negative impact on their business models.
- In rooftop, cost pressures, limited training, and a fragmented network of installers present severe quality challenges.
- The market is still evolving and there is a still a lack of clarity about it.
- Small and medium enterprises (SMEs) are an underserved segment of the rooftop solar sector and there is a dire need to tap into its potential. SMEs suffer from high tariffs and erratic power supply, and rooftop solar PV coupled with storage could be the perfect solution for them.
- Public sector PPAs have challenges in raising debt, as international credit lines of the World Bank and ADB do not support subsidy-based projects. It is difficult to raise money for private sector PPAs, as the majority of target consumers have poor credit ratings.
- Tariffs in rooftop solar are soon expected to match utility scale solar PV.
Despite challenges discussed by the panel members, the data shows that rooftop solar has continued to grow over time. According to Q3 2018 India Solar Market Update, in the first nine months of 2018, rooftop solar projects totaling 1,240 MW have been installed, compared to just 735 MW in the first nine months of 2017 a 70 percent increase year over.