New MERC solar policy detrimental to clean energy: Consumers

Power consumers and consumer organisations have severely criticised the draft Maharashtra Electricity Regulatory Commission (Grid Interactive Rooftop Renewable Energy Generating Systems) Regulations, 2019 saying it would defeat the interest behind producing solar power given the attached taxes under the proposed policy.

“The new draft policy would discourage the solar power producers who are are countering the climate change. They are also contributing to the National Solar Mission targeting 40,000 MWp (Megawatt Peak) to be achieved by 2022. The draft will sound the death knell for the mission in Maharashtra,” Siddharth Varma, former consumer representative of Maharashtra Electricity Regulatory Commission (MERC) said.

The consumer organisations have said the new draft policy of the MERC proposes ‘Gross Metering’ instead of ‘Net Metering’ and this would prove to be an expensive affair in solar power production. Presently, the consumers who produce solar power (and are connected to grid) are allowed to sell the power to the distribution company during the day time and draw power in the night time. The final settlement is done on the basis of net units supplied or consumed.

In the new policy, only the residential consumers will be allowed to consume up to 300 units of power for their purpose and rest can be given to the distribution company. The other producers, however, cannot consume and instead sell all the power generated at very low rate and instead pay for all the power drawn from the grid. On an average, one house consumes less than 200 units per month.

“Solar power is green, renewable and pollution free energy. The Government of India and world is encouraging the Solar Power as it requires no water, causes no pollution, doesn’t contribute to green-house gases and saves carbon emission. These new regulations will totally stop the Solar Rooftop mission, which will further lead to the climate crisis,” Pratap Hogade, of Maharashtra Veej Grahak Sanghatana said. Consumer activists said the draft regulation has also violated the fundamental right of the citizens to generate power for self-consumption as per own choice.

“Proposed changes are against the very intention of the Electricity act and are drafted in a way to benefit the distribution company,” alleged Varma adding that the MERC should call for a public hearing to get the clear response from the consumers. The consumers also pointed out that the neighbouring state of Gujarat has issued notifications to promote roof top solar powers for all – residential, commercial and industrial as well enabling them to continue with cheaper power rates.

Varma referred to the letter written by former energy minister Chandrashekhar Bawankule to the MERC stating that the proposed draft would discourage people from using renewable energy producing systems and power intensive organisations might shift to the neighbouring states with conducive policies besides increasing the state’s carbon foot print by using fossil fuel for power generation’.


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