Solar tariff set for Tamil Nadu puts consumers at a disadvantage: Experts

But the tariff terms set by the commission have been severely opposed by experts and players in the solar market, as they allege that the consumers will be worse off in this situation.
Image used for representational purpose only.
Image used for representational purpose only.

CHENNAI: Close to two months after the State government came out with the solar policy for 2019, the TN Electricity Regulatory Commission (TNERC) has recently passed an order specifying the terms for generation of rooftop solar power. But the tariff terms set by the commission have been severely opposed by experts and players in the solar market, as they allege that the consumers will be worse off in this situation.

The order will be applicable to consumers who will set-up a solar rooftop in future while the present users will follow the 2013 tariff order set by TNERC. The need to install an extra meter to measure solar generation and the type of the accountability methods that decide how much money a consumer will get back based on net metering system, are two main points of contention raised by experts.

Are extra meters a necessity? 

Do new tariff terms bring loss to consumer?

TNERC, according to its new tariff system for solar rooftop users, has given Tangedco three options to pay the consumer for the number of units of solar power he or she generates. And experts said this gives Tangedco the choice to pick the tariff option which may be the lowest rate to be paid to the consumer.

The first option says the price of energy exported to the grid will be 75 per cent of the pooled cost of power purchase notified by the commission. This means that Tangedco will have to pay 75 per cent of Rs 3 (solar unit cost) which is Rs 2.25 per unit of energy generated to the consumer.

The other two options are similar- 75% of last feed in tariff determined by the commission or 75% of tariff discovered in competitive bidding. It is apparent that through all three options, the end consumer will be paid less from the discom for generating solar power.

“In this tariff structure, rooftop solar used by consumers are compared to utility-scale projects which will ultimately be detrimental to end users as they will be getting less money. In competitive bidding for large scale solar parks, the unit price will be kept the least. How can this price be used for a consumer who doesn’t enjoy the extra benefits commercial establishments get?,” said K Vishnu, an expert in the electricity field who is working with Citizen Consumer and Civic Action Group.

The order mandates the user to install two meters, one to record solar generation and the other which will be bi-directional in nature, to track import and export of energy. But, as the first meter has to be fixed next to electricity distribution board in the ground floor, there are high chances of loss during transmission from the terrace. Secondly, laying of cable for a lengthy distance is expensive.

Thirdly, it is possible to measure generation using bi-directional meter itself.

“Users who had installed solar rooftops in 2012 still have not got net meters from Tangedco. Also, for the past six months, there is a severe dearth for single and three-phase electricity meters itself. In such a situation, how can a consumer-run around for an extra meter? The policy discourages rooftop installation,” said Raghunathan KE, founder of Solkar Solar Industry Ltd.

When Express spoke to TNERC, an official said “The commission is a quasi-judicial body. Hence, an order is more like a judgement that cannot be modified that easily. We held an advisory meeting where all stakeholders comments were taken in. Hence, if any change needs to be done with this order, an appeal has to be filed.”

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