India’s rooftop solar sector has been exploding. In 2017, the country added 715 megawatts (MW) in roof installations – more than MW added in 2013, 2014, 2015, and 2016 put together, according to a report from Bloomberg New Energy Finance (BNEF). And the cost of electricity from rooftop solar power has been cut in half in the past five years.
Rooftop solar is the quickest-growing sub-sector of renewable energy in India, according to BNEF. Rooftop PV installations totaled 32, 78, 165, and 227 MW in 2013, 2014, 2015, and 2016 respectively – and then this year saw installations of 715 MW. Rooftop solar has “clocked a four-year compound annual growth rate of 117 percent,” according to BNEF.
Low solar panel prices and increased competition has allowed Indian rooftop system installations to be less expensive than the global average by around 39 to 50 percent, according to Quartz India. And in all major states in the country, rooftop solar energy is cheaper than industrial and commercial power. Government policies and incentives have also spurred the growth, CARE Ratings analyst Gautam Bafna told Quartz India.
Individual projects have also escalated in size, from an average of 250 kilowatts (kW) in 2015 to 855 kW in 2018. BNEF said, “We estimate India will reach 9.5 gigawatts (GW) of rooftop PV capacity by FY2022 – seven times its current total.” That’s still short of the government’s goal of 40 gigawatts by 2022.
There’s still a ways to go. India’s power distribution companies are hesitant to promote rooftop solar, according to Quartz India, because they are concerned about finances. A KPMG partner with infrastructure and government services, Anish De told Quartz India, “During the day, there’ll be sudden spikes of generation; in the evenings, there’ll be a reverse flow. So till [power] storage comes in a much larger way, utilities might find it difficult to manage this.” And over half the rooftop solar market is concentrated in only six of India’s 29 states.