Here Comes the Sun: Residential Consumers’ Experience with Rooftop Solar PV in Five Indian Cities
This working paper documents residential consumers’ experiences with solar rooftop PV systems. The data is captured through household surveys conducted across five Indian cities. The study is an attempt to understand the challenges faced by residential consumers at various stages of their decision pertaining to the installation of rooftop solar PV systems.
Lack of clear accessible objective information for installation: Overall awareness about solar PV systems among residential consumers is limited. Drawbacks such as absence of clear information about the product, processes, and approvals required for installing the system are the key hurdles. With the lack of credible and objective sources of information, there is strong reliance on vendors as exclusive sources of information. Eﬀorts have been made by nodal agencies at the state and national level to present information about rooftop solar PVs, but they remain elusive since there is a disconnect between the medium of dissemination (which tends to rely predominantly on online platforms and smartphone applications) and the medium of relying on references from friends, family, and neighbors who have already installed solar rooftop systems, which is preferred by consumers.
Absence of customized financing options: The local policy and regulatory context, especially with respect to tariﬀs and subsidies, has a significant role to play in determining how a residential consumer considers financing the installation of rooftop PV systems. In the first place, this will determine and inform the consumer decision. Considering a skewed tariﬀ structure, there may be no incentive for a consumer to opt for rooftop PV, which will be a more cost-eﬀective option. Therefore, instruments to finance a product like a rooftop PV system need to be customized to the nature of the product without merely presenting it as another consumer durable good. This is particularly true when it comes to determining loan collateral, which is often disproportionate to the cost of the system.
Lack of coordination, institutional priorities and processes: The lack of coordination among the 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 conﬂicted with its grid-based power supply, residents in Chandigarh faced challenges in rooftop installations due to restrictions imposed by the municipality’s architectural specifications. In addition, consumers also report challenges faced during institutional processes such as delays, challenges in billing, the need for multiple visits, and the lack of capacity of officials to provide information and guidance.
India has set an ambitious target of achieving 40 gigawatts (GW) of rooftop solar capacity by 2022. The installed capacity of rooftop solar as of July 2018 was 1,222 megawatts (MW)—this is less than 5 percent of the 2022 target.1 While there has been progress in the form of improvements in the performance of solar panels, availability of financing options, and favorable policy and regulatory ecosystems, rooftop solar in the residential sector is yet to gain momentum. Studies exploring reasons for poor uptake have approached the issue from the technical, institutional, and financial aspects. However, unlike traditional grid-based supply, meeting rooftop solar targets requires the active participation of the consumer; and therefore, it is important to look at the sector from the consumer’s perspective.
This working paper documents and analyzes the experiences of the residential electricity consumer with installing rooftop solar photovoltaic (PV) systems through household surveys in five Indian cities.
Addressing three key challenges—lack of clear, objective, and accessible information for installation; absence of customized financing options; and lack of coordination in institutional priorities and processes—can enhance residential consumers’ experience in installing rooftop solar PV.
Consumers’ experiences are contextual. Top-down approaches must be complemented by bottom-up initiatives involving multiple local stakeholders, while ensuring the rights and welfare of the consumer.
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