As the Indian solar sector continues to gather more momentum by the day, one area that often feels relatively neglected is rooftop solar. India’s rooftop solar capacity is currently estimated at 740 MW, only about 10% of total solar PV capacity in the country.

  • Delays in approvals, undefined responsibilities and accountability, unavailability of meters, restrictions on system sizes are some of the main issues that need to be resolved
  • International examples show that market wide adoption of rooftop solar can grow by up to 60% if net-metering is implemented effectively
  • Ensuring effective net-metering implementation should be the top priority of government and regulatory agencies

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On Sunday, 5th June 2015, one of India’s leading economic journalists, Swaminathan Aiyar, in his weekly column “Swaminomics”, wrote that India should wait for five years before trying to implement big plans for solar (refer). He argues that solar is still a comparatively expensive energy generation technology and that because India is an evening peak country, increasing the share of solar would be a “double whammy”, by driving up indirect costs for thermal, peak power generating sources. As a result, he concludes, India should go all out on solar only after it is fully established that the cost breakthrough has been achieved and the technology is more mature. While there are interesting insights in the article, we disagree with his conclusions. Here is why.

  • Solar costs are not as high as Swami claims. In fact, upcoming NSM bids will show that it’s neck to neck with        new thermal projects.
  • India is an evening peak country right now but as the economy develops the peak will move into the daytime          (cooling).
  • Global investors already see the social and economic appeal of solar and are moving out from coal to the                sector.

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The Delhi government approved its first solar policy on June 6, 2016. The policy understandably focuses on rooftop solar development because of shortage of available land space in the city. It has many innovative provisions and provides for exemptions and simplification of procedures for rooftop system installation.

The policy introduces ‘Group Net Metering’ for the first time in India, whereby surplus energy exported from a solar plant can be credited against consumption at any other location of the same entity within the same DISCOM territory. In another first for India, the policy introduces ‘Virtual Net Metering’ whereby consumers with insufficient rooftop space can co-invest in a solar power system at any other location and get pro rata benefit of electricity output.

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As the Indian solar sector grows, there has been growing pressure on Indian project developers to churn their capital. The merger and acquisition (M&A) activity in the sector is gathering pace and it is believed that as many as 3,000 MW of projects are on sale right now. Last week, a report quoted that IDFC Alternatives, an Indian private equity fund, is in advanced discussions to buy 275 MW of solar assets from Acme Solar (refer). This comes on the heels of successful closure of Welspun’s sale of 990 MW of solar assets to Tata Power (refer) and another reported sale of 337 MW of renewables capacity by NSL to Brookfield Asset Management.

  • Sale of post-development renewables assets is a time-tested and proven method to free up capital but there have been very few successful exits in India
  • The Indian solar market is shifting gears to move into the next phase of its development and a liquid secondary market is essential for its sustainable growth
  • A few more successful deals and/ or listings will help set more industry benchmarks, act as a proof of concept and attract other investors to the sector

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Results were announced last week for 1,050 MW of projects tendered by Solar Energy Corporation of India (SECI) in Karnataka (950 MW) and Chhattisgarh (100 MW) under the Viability Gap Funding (VGF) scheme. These projects will be set up outside solar parks and will have no module sourcing restrictions. Adani (350 MW), Hero Future Energies (200 MW), Energon (100 MW), Acme Solar (160 MW) and Solar Arise (30 MW) are the big winners in Karnataka with Adani winning the entire 100 MW capacity available in Chhattisgarh.

  • Recent tenders show that level of oversubscription and/or bidding intensity has come down markedly over the last 6 months
  • While international developers have won a majority (58%) of NTPC projects, 62% of SECI pipeline and 51% of state policy pipeline has been allocated to Indian corporates
  • As many of the leading developers get occupied with execution and/or capital raising, reduction in bidding intensity should provide an attractive bidding opportunity to newer players

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