A C&I Project Delayed Because of Solar Module Prices May Lose Out on Overall Savings

Mercom India held its first Virtual C&I Clean Energy Meet on May 22, 2024, focusing on tackling the increasing demand for clean energy solutions among major power consumers in Jharkhand, Chhattisgarh, and Madhya Pradesh. The event provided crucial insights into cost-saving strategies and facilitated meaningful interactions between clean energy solution providers and commercial and industrial (C&I) consumers.

The event addressed various aspects of power requirements, highlighting cost benefits, potential challenges, opportunities, and effective solutions. Participants gained exposure to the latest advancements in clean energy technologies designed to reduce operational costs and a deeper understanding of the benefits of transitioning to clean energy and the principles of environmental sustainability.

The panelists were Rajat Shrivastava, GM Marketing at Icon Solar, Pawan Pandey, Head –Execution, Distributed Energy Business at Jakson Group, and Ashish Verma, VP – Business Development at Gensol EPC.

Priya Sanjay, Managing Director, Mercom India, moderated the session.

Priya Sanjay opened the discussion by highlighting the growth of rooftop solar in the commercial sector, which is driven by decreasing costs and the recognition of significant cost savings by businesses. Many companies have integrated rooftop solar into their corporate social responsibility initiatives. The compound annual growth rate (CAGR) for rooftop solar in the commercial consumers segment stands at around 27%, while industrial rooftop solar installations have seen a CAGR of about 33% from 2014 to 2023.

She also pointed out that due to rooftop solar’s limited power generation capacity, large C&I consumers increasingly turn to open access solar projects to meet their renewable energy needs. The open access solar market has expanded substantially since 2013, with a year-over-year growth rate of approximately 53%. Currently, about 12,200 MW of open access solar projects are installed across various states in India.

Pandey noted that C&I unit owners must evaluate their financial stability and long-term goals when considering rooftop solar installations. Rooftop solar is often the first step in adopting renewable energy due to the ease of installation and on-site benefits.

He said that deciding to go in for a CAPEX or OPEX model depends on the business’s financial capacity and strategic priorities. The CAPEX model, where the owner makes the initial investment, offers long-term savings, control over the solar installation, and potential property value increases. It is ideal for those with enough financial resources to invest.

“On the other hand, the OPEX model, which involves third-party investment and payment through installments or a power purchase agreement, suits businesses looking to avoid upfront costs. Both models provide significant benefits, and the choice should align with the business’s specific needs and financial condition,” Pandey said.

Verma provided detailed financial insights into the cost and investment of a 100 kW rooftop solar system. “Installing a 100 kW rooftop solar system typically costs between ₹2.5 million (~$30,022) and ₹2.6 million (~$31,223). Such a system generates approximately 120,000 to 130,000 units of electricity. In regions like Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, and Madhya Pradesh, where commercial industry tariffs are in the ₹7 (~$0.084)/kWh to ₹8 (~$0.096)/kWh range, the cost of generation from rooftop solar is around ₹3.7 (~$0.044)/kWh to ₹4 (~$0.048)/kWh. The difference between the cost of generation and the commercial tariff is around ₹3 (~$0.036)/kWh to ₹3.5 (~$0.042)/kWh. The payback period for the initial investment is estimated to be 5.5 to 6 years. With accelerated depreciation, the investment can be recovered within 3 to 4 years,” he explained.

Verma noted that today, any organization must adopt a sustainability approach to remain competitive, especially post-COVID. Companies are increasingly focusing on reducing carbon emissions, particularly through adopting renewable energy sources like solar power.

“This shift is driven by regulatory requirements and market demands, with industries such as textiles and cement leading the way in implementing rooftop and ground-mounted solar installations. The trend towards sustainability also improves corporate brand image, attracts climate-conscious talent, and provides commercial benefits by reducing energy costs and increasing profitability. Overall, being climate-conscious is becoming essential for corporate growth and competitiveness, Verma added.

Shrivastava noted that this is the right time to have a rooftop or open access to any solar energy source. Many consumers like to wait, depending on whether module prices are going up or down.

“If you delay the project for just one component – the solar module, you might miss out on overall savings. It is not only about the plan but the cost you are saving and investing for 25 to 30 years from now on.”

He highlighted that prices are dynamic, and there is no way to predict the market. Having a rooftop solar system saves operating costs, giving C&I entities an edge for R&D or marketing. With savings, the company’s products can be competitively priced.

Each state offers a different incentive for C&I consumers to adopt renewable energy. Jharkhand has a distinct exemption on charges for rooftop solar, intrastate solar with storage, and intrastate captive and third-party solar projects of less than 25 MW.

In Madhya Pradesh, electricity duty and energy development cess are exempt for renewable projects for 10 years.

Chhattisgarh offers electricity exemption for projects by MSMEs and facilities land of grid-connected projects.

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