India's rooftop PV capacity passes 1GW: report

The findings of its new India Solar Rooftop Map report — released this week at Intersolar Mumbai — surpass the bullish expectations of Vikram Solar President and CTO Ivan Saha, who recently told pv magazine that the country’s rooftop sector wold shift to a market of between 1 GW and 1.5 GW in 2017.

The annual capacity additions of the past year — a 113% jump on the preceding 12-month period — have exceeded total installations from all previous years combined, with a broadly similar growth rate expected over the coming year.

The Gurgaon-based firm expects total installed rooftop capacity to hit 12.7 GW by 2021.

“Rooftop solar has been a side-story in the Indian solar sector so far, but that is beginning to change,” says Bridge to India Managing Director Vinay Rustagi, adding that rooftop market growth will start to surpass utility-scale gains within the next five years.

“The sector is growing rapidly and beginning to realize its potential, thanks largely to the increasing cost-competitiveness of rooftop solar power versus grid power.”

The states of Tamil Nadu, Maharashtra and Gujarat have installed the most rooftop capacity thus far. In addition, government tenders have accounted for more than 10% of the nationwide cumulative total to date.

Projects based on power purchase agreements (PPAs) have contributed 22% of total build-out, with Azure Power and Amplus Solar among a handful of companies that have been offering PPAs.

Bridge to India attributes the growth of the past year to the “improving economics of rooftop” PV, adding that most industrial and commercial power consumers can slash their electricity costs by 20-30% by installing rooftop solar.

The industrial and commercial segments currently account for 63% of nationwide installed capacity, with such consumers achieving grid parity in 17 of India’s 19 biggest states, as system costs have declined by an average of 12% per annum over the last four years.

“In states such as Maharashtra and Haryana, (the) tariff differential between grid power and rooftop solar power can be as high as 30%,” Bridge to India says. “This has been much steeper than what most analysts would have earlier predicted and has helped in achieving the existing growth rate.”

The Indian government wants rooftop installations to account for 40 GW of its National Solar Mission target of 100 GW of cumulative solar capacity by 2022.

However, while supportive policies such as net metering — as well as a range of subsidies and affordable debt financing options — have helped drive the uptake of rooftop PV, Bridge to India argues that there is still “huge scope for improvement on every front.”