City govt 'least bothered' about clean, solar energy

Even renewable energy ministry upset over such attitude

The Delhi government is one of the least supportive state governments in promoting solar projects, according to officials of the new and renewable energy ministry at a conference on Friday.

Revising the subsidy system, maintenance and accreditation of solar products are essential to ensure that all villages get electricity by 2020, said experts at a meet on ‘Solar Power and Challenges Ahead’, organised by the Centre for Science and Environment (CSE).

G Prasad, a scientist with the ministry, said that despite funds released by the union ministry for off-grid solar projects for electricity, street-lighting and liquid electronic display lamps, several state governments are uncooperative in encouraging people to use them. According to Prasad, only 0.20 per cent solar projects have been sanctioned in 2011-2012 in Delhi under the Jawaharlal Nehru Solar Mission.

The Delhi government has sanctioned only 2.50 MW solar plants in an entire decade, while during the same period, Gujarat has sanctioned 654.80 MW solar plants.

“Although there are some problems, such as high capital cost for mini grids and collection of monthly charges from users, the main issue is the attitude of state governments towards these problems,” said Prasad. “But these initiatives were considered hoping that state governments would support us,” added Prasad.

Gireesh B Pradhan, secretary of renewable energy ministry, said they are doing a serious revamp of the off-grid solar programme. “CSE’s recommendations will help us to a great extent. We need to tap into all sort of energy resources to ensure that we get adequate electricity,” he said.

According to experts, so far only five states — Assam, Uttarakhand, Chhattisgarh, Haryana and parts of Uttar Pradesh — have been successful in tapping solar energy.

Target 2020

India has a target of providing electricity with the help of renewable energy sources to 145 million households by 2020 across the country, as per CSE’s estimates.

“Though the number of households using solar energy in villages has been increasing since 2001, the number of houses with no lighting has also doubled,” said Joel Kumar, a researcher with CSE. “Most solar energy users tend to overload systems as there is absolutely no sensitisation,” said Kumar.

Sunita Narain of CSE said India needs to ensure that phase-2 of the National Solar mission heads in the right direction, unlike phase-1.

“The biggest barrier to any innovation is that there is no accreditation of products. We also need to ensure that a model of maintenance is in place. If the Chhattisgarh government can provide maintenence without any issues, why can’t other state governments follow a similar model?” she said.

Encourage now

Experts suggested that small power producers in all states should be encouraged to come forward.

“Rural India will take the lead in developing a truly smart grid solar ‘photo voltage’, if small players are allowed to expand. ‘Photo voltage’ are domestic solar appliances that can be installed in households.

“Banks are not willing to work with solar project providers because of marginalised incentives,” said Hari Natarajan, chief executive officer of infrastructure development fund agency S3IDF.

He said most off-grid solar models are fixed and customers are not given a chance to explore all options.

However, both government officials and solar energy experts say that with falling prices of solar products, India will get better access to renewable lighting and reduce dependency on kerosene lamps in rural areas.   

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