India has set a target of achieving 40 gigawatts (GW) of rooftop solar capacity by 2022. The recent improvements in the performance of solar panels, availability of financing options, and favourable policy and regulatory ecosystems have helped to promote the uptake of rooftop solar in India, especially among industrial and commercial consumers. However, rooftop solar uptake by residential consumers, while promising, is yet to gain momentum.
A concentrated national effort is required to accelerate the deployment of rooftop solar to achieve the target by 2022. Unlike traditional grid-based electricity supply, installation of rooftop solar requires the active participation of the consumer at various stages of installation.
Yet, most of the studies have not analysed residential consumers’ perspectives and experiences and reasons for the limited uptake of rooftop solar. To understand the issues, WRI India’s new working paper, Here Comes the Sun: Residential Consumers’ Experiences with Rooftop Solar PV in Five Indian Cities, presents findings from an evidence-based study in the cities of Bangalore, Chennai, Chandigarh, Jaipur and Nagpur covering 1,808 households predominantly residing in independent dwellings. We identified that residential uptake of rooftop solar PV is primarily limited by three key barriers—lack of information, unavailability of financing options, and complicated government policies.
Lack of clear, objective, and accessible information for installation
It was observed that, awareness among residential consumers about solar PV is limited. Specifically, the study observed that:
• There is no credible source of information available to guide potential consumers, and they have to rely on solar vendors, who often provide selective information; and
• There is a disconnect between government efforts to digitise the information and dissemination process, and the accessibility of this information for consumers.
Absence of customised financing options
Loan options that cater to the consumers’ needs while installing a solar system are limited. The financial incentives that a residential consumer gains out of installing a rooftop solar system are largely dependent on the local tariff and subsidy structures, and therefore varies from one city to another. However, financing options like loans seldom take these differences into account. In addition, consumers point out that when they apply for a loan, they are often asked to mortgage their homes or land as collateral – the value of which far exceeds the value of the system itself. This is further complicated by lack of standardised resale value of panels.
Lack of coordination, institutional priorities, and processes
The lack of alignment of priorities of different government agencies has affected the consumer experience. While residents in Chennai encountered an electricity utility that did not support rooftop solar because it competed with its grid-based power supply, residents in Chandigarh faced challenges in rooftop installations due to restrictions imposed by the city’s building codes and architectural specifications. In addition, consumers also report challenges faced during institutional processes such as delays in approvals, challenges in billing, multiple visits by the consumers to obtain a decision on the processes, and the lack of capacity of officials to provide appropriate information and guidance.
Since residential consumers’ participation is crucial to the uptake of rooftop solar, addressing their pain-points at various stages of installation should be the focus of all actions in future. To enhance the consumer experience and remove the pain-points, government action is required in the form of better planning with regards to dissemination (of government facilities and benefits), coordination and alignment (of priorities and actions), guidance faster approvals. It should be kept in mind that about 5 percent of the target has been met, there is a long way to go in rooftop solar.