The Tamil Nadu Electricity Regulatory Commission (TNERC) has issued an order directing the Tamil Nadu Generation and Distribution Corporation (TANGEDCO) to provide the Southern Railway with low-tension and high-tension metering connectivity for 4 MW of rooftop solar projects.
The Southern Railways filed a petition with the state electricity commission asking it to grant connectivity and net metering facilities for the 4 MW rooftop solar project and for future solar projects.
The petition was filed for the solar projects connected under the high tension II-A and HT III tariff category for consumers in Tamil Nadu as per an older TNERC order from 2013.
These projects are part of Indian Railways’ efforts to increase the share of renewable energy in its energy mix. As per its “Vision 2020” program, the railways’ network operator said it aims to acquire 10% of its energy through renewable sources.
The Southern Railways, in its petition, said that when it approached TANGEDCO seeking an extension of net metering facilities for the project, it was informed that it would be provided metering for eligible low-tension consumers and that high-tension consumers will only be allowed to parallelly operate their solar systems with the grid, without net metering.
It argued that this move by the TANGEDCO would lead to poor return on investments for the developers. Southern Railways stated that it has invested a huge amount to set up these projects and is entitled to the return on its investments.
In a similar case, early this year, the Uttar Pradesh Electricity Regulatory Commission (UPERC) had allowed the Noida Metro Rail Corporation Limited (NMRC) to install 10 MW of rooftop solar power projects with a net metering facility. The NMRC had filed a petition asking the Commission to relax the 1 MW ceiling and to supply electricity on a net metering basis.
In its order, the TNERC cited the government of Tamil Nadu’s Solar Energy Policy 2019, which has no provisions for disallowing HT consumers from net metering facilities, as TANGEDCO has proposed. It also noted that the petition was issued before the state government issued the New Solar Policy on February 4, 2019.
The regulatory Commission consequently directed the Tamil Nadu Generation and Distribution Corporation to provide low-tension and high-tension net metering facilities and connectivity to Southern Railway as per its order from 2013 only for the 4 MW project presented.
However, it said that for future projects, Southern Railways would have to rely on whatever orders the TNERC issues from time to time. It also added that if LT or HT net meters were not available with TANGEDCO, Southern Railways was permitted to procure these meters from other sources as per the required specifications.
The rooftop solar market in India has been growing steadily over the last five years, but the pace has been sluggish. Though there are plenty of challenges, net-metering can be one of the primary facilitators of the rooftop solar market in the country. However, state-level implementation of the net metering policy has been patchy at best. In most states, the maximum capacity limit for rooftop solar systems is capped at 1 MW for a single metering point to qualify for net-metering, which has been restricting the growth in the segment.
Recently, Mercom reported that Indian Railways was planning to source approximately 1,000 MW of solar power and nearly 200 MW of wind power by 2021-22 across zonal railways and production units.
Previously, the Railway Energy Management Company Limited, a joint venture of the Indian Railways and RITES Limited, issued a request for qualification to set up approximately 32.56 MW of rooftop solar systems at various railway establishments and stations across the zonal railways in India.
Nithin Thomas is a staff reporter at Mercom India. Previously with Reuters News, he has covered oil, metals and agricultural commodity markets across global markets. He has also covered refinery and pipeline explosions, oil and gas leaks, Atlantic region hurricane developments, and other natural disasters. Nithin holds a Masters Degree in Applied Economics from Christ University, Bangalore and a Bachelor’s Degree in Commerce from Loyola College, Chennai. More articles from Nithin.