THE GIST of Editorial for UPSC Exams : 12 JUNE 2019 (Giving solar power a leg-up (The Hindu))

Giving solar power a leg-up (The Hindu)

Mains Paper 3: Economy
Prelims level: Rooftop solar
Mains level: Renewable energy resources


  • India’s renewables transition has so far been a success story, with the share of renewables capacity increasing sharply in recent years.
  • Today, wind and solar account for about 20 per cent (70 GW) of the total installed capacity of about 350 GW, of which solar’s share is 27 GW (it was just 3 GW in 2014).
  • In another remarkable inflection point, addition in renewables capacity has outstripped that of thermal generation in recent times.
  • Of the 16 GW capacity added in 2018, solar accounted for nearly 70 per cent, with coal accounting for 28 per cent and wind 14 per cent.


  • Clearly, with the falling costs of panels and battery storage, solar lies at the centre of the renewables turnaround.
  • However, the creation of solar capacity has largely occurred in the utility solar space, with rooftop capacity accounting for just 5 GW.
  • While it is a fact that utility solar is able to sell power at ₹2-2.5 a unit, against ₹4-4.5 in the case of rooftop solar, a shift in the mix towards the latter is desirable on many counts.
  • Rooftop solar is decentralised, it empowers ordinary people and communities, and does not require land acquisition.
  • It will provide smaller units in particular with a cheap, reliable source of electricity.
  • Discoms and the power regulator merely need to ensure that installation standards are met.

Reasons behind promoting rooftop solar

  • Discoms are averse to promoting rooftop solar for at least three reasons.
  • First, with utility solar, they are able to cross subsidise in a bigger way.
  • Second, besides, the current net metering formula in many States does not offer any gains to Discoms.
  • Third, rooftop solar also threatens to further destabilise their finances.
  • To open access purchase and captive generation already account for a rising share of total power purchase by large-scale commercial consumers, putting the Discoms’ cross-subsidy model in jeopardy.
  • If rooftop solar gains ground, it will lead to a further exodus of buyers.
  • This will hurt both the availability as well as the cost of electricity for agriculture users and poor consumers. Clearly, cross-subsidisation cannot carry on.
  • As experts have observed, Discoms need to overhaul their business model by separating their functions of wiring and providing electricity.
  • Short-term open access, that often throws Discoms’ power purchase plans out of gear, should not be encouraged.
  • Net metering rules for rooftop solar should be tweaked to make them attractive for Discoms as well.
  • As with renewable purchase obligations, the Discoms should be given tangible net metering targets.


  • The argument that excessive solar feed-in will destabilise the grid is somewhat overblown, as the grid can be strengthened to deal with the situation.
  • The long-term gains, environmental and economic, will offset such an investment. Germany’s renewables transition has been driven by rooftop solar.
  • With a bit of policy incentive, grid-connected rooftop solar can become a major force in sunshine-abundant India as well.

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Prelims Questions:

Q.1) With reference to the religious practices in India, the “Terapanthi” sect belongs to
(a) Jainism
(b) Buddhism
(c) Sikhism
(d) Hinduism

Answer: A
Mains Questions:

Q.1) Solar capacity has increased sharply in recent years, but rooftop solar needs a policy boost. Critically examine the statement.