New Delhi: India is projected to fall well short of its target for 2022 of having 100 gigawatts (GW) of installed solar capacity, largely due to slow uptake of rooftop solar, according to a new report by the Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis (IEEFA) and JMK Research. As of December 2021, India's cumulative installed solar capacity was 55 GW, with grid-connected utility-scale projects contributing 77 percent and the balance coming from grid-connected rooftop solar (20 percent) and mini or micro off-grid projects (3 percent).
With just eight months of 2022 remaining, only about 50 percent of the 100 GW target, consisting of 60 GW of utility-scale and 40 GW of rooftop solar capacity, has been met, said the report.
Approximately 19 GW of solar capacity is expected to be added in 2022 — 15.8 GW from utility-scale and 3.5 GW from rooftop solar. "Even with this capacity addition, about 27 percent of India's 100 GW solar target would be unmet," said report co-author Jyoti Gulia, Founder, JMK Research.
The report projects that by December 2022 there will be a 25 GW shortfall in the 40 GW rooftop solar target, compared to just 1.8GW in the utility-scale solar target. "Utility-scale solar capacity addition is on track. India is set to achieve nearly 97% of its 60GW target," said Gulia. "This makes it imperative to have a more concerted effort towards expanding rooftop solar," she added.
Headwinds ranging from pandemic-induced supply chain disruption to deeply rooted policy restrictions have impeded the growth of India's rooftop solar (onsite solar power) and open access solar (offsite solar power) installations.
"The anticipated 27 GW shortfall from the 2022 solar target can be attributed to a string of challenges which are slowing overall progress on renewable energy targets," said co-author Vibhuti Garg, Energy Economist and Lead India, IEEFA.
In rooftop solar, state-level efforts such as Gujarat's Surya Scheme need to be replicated by other states in the short-term to help in boosting capacity, said Gulia. "It is also likely that the government, in the short-term, will push aggressively for expediting solar capacity addition to achieve the 100 GW target by 2022 by re-allocating some of the unmet rooftop target to utility-scale generation," she added.
On the current trajectory, the report said that India's solar target of 300 GW by 2030 will be off the mark by about 86 GW.
The challenges include regulatory roadblocks, net metering limits, the twin burdens of basic customs duty (BCD) on imported cells and modules and issues with the Approved List of Models and Manufacturers (ALMM), unsigned power supply agreements (PSAs) and restrictions on the banking of renewable energy, financing issues plus delays in or rejection of open access approval grants, and the unpredictability of future open access charges.
"Central and state government policies and regulations must be aligned to support the solar sector overall, and especially the ailing rooftop and open access segments of the market," said co-author Akhil Thayillam, Senior Research Associate, JMK Research.
The report also proposed short and long-term measures to get India back on track to meet the solar capacity installation targets. It called for uniform policies to be applicable nationally for at least the next five years, consistent regulations for net metering and banking facilities, also to be applicable nationally and restrictions on the banking of renewable energy to be revoked at least until rooftop and open access state targets have been achieved.
For the long-term, the report suggested stricter enforcement of the renewable purchase obligation (RPO), improved financial health, and privatisation of distribution companies (discoms), reduced cross-subsidy surcharge (CSS) for commercial and industrial (C&I) consumers and a capital subsidy for Battery Energy Storage Systems (BESS).