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Delhi’s solar energy model best for power-hungry cities, says study

NEW DELHI: An international report on how energy-poor cities can be powered while containing polluting has cited Delhi’s net-metering policy for solar rooftop systems as a probable solution for providing cheap electricity. The World Resources Institute’s report, titled “Powering Cities in the Global South”, was released on Wednesday. The report also pointed out that Brazil was contemplating legislation changes to its renewable energy norms to enable a Delhi-like policy.

While highlighting the three solutions — decentralised solar photovoltaic (PV) system, clean cooking fuel and energy-efficient buildings and appliances — the system in the Indian capital was pointed out as exemplary. Net-metering was introduced in Delhi in 2014. Under this, home owners can either own a solar power system or lease their roof space to project developers. Roof owners can also pay a monthly lease rent to have a solar PV system put up by project developers. “The electricity generated from such a system is used to meet the household’s or rooftop owner’s energy needs, with the excess being fed into the grid,” the report stated.

The report also noted the Pay As You Go (PAYG) process, popular in rural parts of Africa where customers acquire solar systems for a small deposit. They then buy daily usage “credits” for 0.50 dollars, a sum that is less than the price of traditional kerosene lighting.

The report stated that underutilised rooftops in cities could be put to use under policies such as Gujarat’s “Rent a Roof” in which residents give their rooftops to private solar energy companies that pay them around Rs 3 for every unit of energy produced. There is mention also of Bengaluru’s net-metering programme in which owners of rooftop solar PV systems are paid a promotional rate every month for net excess generation flowing to the grid.

Scaling up decentralised PV systems would also curb emission, the report said. This low-pollution measure could be crucial in mega cities of South Asia, where the polluting PM2.5 concentrations are double that in cities in developed countries, the report said. In 2010, China, India, Africa and Latin America comprised about one-quarter of total urban greenhouse gas emissions from buildings, transport and waste disposal. In a business-as-usual scenario, where no measures are taken to reduce emissions, these regions will be responsible for 56% of total urban emissions in 2050.
“Solar PV is a viable option even where individuals do not have adequate rooftop space. Community-owned, community-shared solar systems are a promising model in such cases. Such systems can be constructed on community- or municipality-owned land or buildings,” said the report while pointing out that the cost of rooftop PV panels is declining swiftly. The average cost of electricity from residential rooftop solar PV in India and China in 2015 was within the range of cost of electricity from natural gas in both the countries. This didn’t include the cost of battery storage, which remains steep.

According to the WRI report, most poor households in developing countries spend 14-22% of their incomes on energy. Households are considered “energy poor” if they spend 10% or more of their income on fuel or electricity. The report, therefore, suggests making solar PV panels accessible to low-income households through utilities, banks, micro-finance institutions or through leasing options and PAYG programmes.

Source: TOI

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