Indian start-ups have an answer for city-dwellers who can’t set up solar panels on their rooftops –

Suraj Vallamkonda, 29, purchased a brand new electrical scooter as a step in direction of lowering his carbon footprint and tackling local weather change. But when he plugged it into recharge, he realised he was utilizing fossil fuels to power his scooter, not inexperienced energy.

One answer, he knew, can be to put in solar panels on his rooftop. But his home terrace, with its thriving herb backyard, didn’t have sufficient house for panels, so he determined to speculate as a substitute in “solar biscuits”, or parts of panels in an current system.

Vallamkonda tapped into solar power produced miles away through a start-up enterprise that helps meet people’ clear energy wants at home with power produced by solar panels mounted on massive malls, faculties and different websites throughout India. The Bengaluru resident invested in solar panels nearly, incomes him credit that offset his electrical energy invoice at home.

Start-ups like SundayGrids are making rooftop solar power accessible to city Indians like Vallamkonda and boosting India’s bold renewable energy programme, which goals to maneuver the nation away from its reliance on fossil fuels like coal.

“The idea for the start-up came from the fact that most of us did not have access to a rooftop,” mentioned younger entrepreneur Mathew Samuel, 24, co-founder of SundayGrids. “We were mostly living in rented apartments, often moving cities – and as an individual, the economics of it and how to install [panels] were also a challenge. But we wanted our say in climate action, like so many other people do.”

Rooftop solar is seen as a cheap, environment friendly and easy-to-implement method to meet India’s rising energy calls for. More than 70 crore Indians have gained entry to electrical energy since 2000, with about 97% of the inhabitants now linked to on- or off-grid power, in response to the International Energy Agency.

An increasing financial system, rising inhabitants, urbanisation and industrialisation imply India will see the biggest improve in energy demand of any nation within the subsequent 20 years, in response to an International Energy Agency report on the nation’s 2021 energy outlook. At current, 40% of India’s put in electrical energy capability comes from renewable sources like solar, wind and hydro.

But, in response to India’s Ministry of New and Renewable Energy, solely 5.7 gigawatts of solar rooftop initiatives had been arrange by final November – only a fraction of the 40-GW rooftop solar goal for the top of 2022.

That factors to main scope to develop rooftop solar quick.

“[It] will be a consumer utility in 10 or 15 years, just like a fridge or washing machine,” mentioned Martin Scherfler, co-founder of Auroville Consulting, who works on power-sector reforms. “Right now, however, it is a very bumpy ride with a lot of resistance from old power distribution companies, for whom the consumer was never supposed to be a producer.”

Scarce rooftops

According to a 2021 Asian Development Bank report, of the full rooftop solar energy deployed in India, the residential sector has been the worst performer, in comparison with different industrial and business areas.

Researchers hyperlink this to low consciousness, restricted financing choices and roof possession, and piecemeal implementation of internet metering, a billing mechanism that credit solar-system homeowners for the electrical energy they add to the grid.

“In a five-city survey we found most residents did not know where to find relevant information on setting up rooftop solar,” mentioned Deepak Sriram Krishnan, affiliate director for the non-profit World Resources Institute India’s energy programme.

“A lot of people want to make the switch, but also want it to be economically viable,” he mentioned. “There are very few banks financing rooftop solar – and in most cases, the collateral is the entire house.” In residences, rooftops are often shared property additionally housing tv antennas and water tanks.

In particular person homes, rooftops are areas the place garments are frolicked to dry, terrace gardens bloom, spices are sun-dried, youngsters play and household get-togethers are held.

“A digital platform is a win-win situation,” mentioned Vallamkonda, noting his mom, who he lives with, “cannot wait to invest a lot more” within the undertaking’s subsequent part.

Digital solar

In town of Hyderabad, younger software program engineer Sandeep Menon, 25, was first launched to the concept of rooftop solar at an condo block owned by a good friend.

“Normally when looking for an apartment, we look at the rent, location and basic amenities,” he informed the Thomson Reuters Foundation by cellphone.

“But access to green energy might soon find its way onto that list,” he mentioned. “Till then, digital solar is bridging the gap. It is a starting point for many who want to make the switch.”

Software engineer Sandeep Menon poses for an image on the rooftop of his condo block in Hyderabad. Photo credit score: Thomson Reuters Foundation/ Picture courtesy Suresh Menon

Menon made an preliminary funding of Rs 15,000 and saves roughly Rs 1,000 on his quarterly electrical energy payments, for a 15-year interval.

Within six months of launching with seed cash from a fintech fund, SundayGrids bought out its 5-kilowatt first-phase undertaking and is now launching a second tranche of 100 kilowatt-200 kilowatt, which can produce far more power.

Consumers additionally pay an on-boarding price whereas websites internet hosting the panels are billed for the solar power produced on their premises, which nonetheless works out cheaper than standard grid electrical energy.

“We are tying up with more solar installers and also hosts or people who have ample space to set up rooftop solar panels,” Samuel mentioned.

From procuring malls to colleges, hospitals and industrial hubs, Samuel and his group scout for hosts and do offers with installers to arrange and keep panels.

They additionally draw up agreements with power corporations to low cost buyer payments in return for credit.

Rising demand

The Tata Power Company Limited, an India-based built-in energy agency, has emerged as one of many greatest gamers within the rooftop solar sector, with its CEO Praveer Sinha saying it’s the solely method to “get away” from giant coal power crops.

The firm, which provides a one-stop service for organising rooftop solar, makes use of satellite tv for pc photos to evaluate the rooftop capability of a property and maintains the panels. It is now growing thin-film strips that may be caught onto a floor to generate solar power.

“We are also working on a do-it-yourself solar power-generating kit that will allow individuals to set up on their own,” Sinha mentioned, including the corporate was toying with the concept of promoting panels in varied colors aside from the usual blue.

Tata has seen an enormous uptake from shoppers for its one-stop service, he mentioned, calling for extra financing choices and tighter regulation to maintain out “fly-by-night” operators.

Power-sector advisor Scherfler mentioned it was as much as the federal government to place in place market circumstances and guidelines to encourage residents to make use of inexperienced energy.

The authorities already supplies a subsidy of as much as 40% for rooftop solar, and this yr has additional simplified procedures to make set up straightforward.

To encourage people to spend money on rooftop solar, it’s organising an online portal for residents to register and promising approval inside 15 days.

It has additionally dedicated to the early set up of net-metering techniques, provision of authorised vendor lists and creation of a complaints mechanism.

“Centralised facilities are not the solution – individuals can be,” mentioned Scherfler.

This article first appeared on Thomson Reuters Foundation News.

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