Implementation Issues Continue to Plague the Rollout of PM Surya Ghar Yojana

The PM Surya Ghar Yojana, an initiative by the government to install rooftop solar systems in 10 million households, has hit several roadblocks in its implementation across various states.

Despite ambitious targets, the program appears to be struggling due to many challenges stakeholders face, including state distribution companies (DISCOMs), installers, and consumers.

Data revealed during a recent webinar by REC highlights the stark disparity in the program’s progress between states. While Gujarat has achieved an installation-to-application ratio of 19.45%, Rajasthan lags significantly behind at a mere 1.75% despite having fewer applications than Gujarat.

The Renewable Energy Association of Rajasthan (REAR) has attributed the poor implementation of the program to the “insensitive behavior” of DISCOM officials.

In a letter to the authorities, REAR said, “Despite efforts by the DISCOMs to sensitize field employees, many Assistant Engineer offices remain oblivious to the latest orders, rules, and regulations related to rooftop solar installations.”

This lack of knowledge often results in delayed or improper handling of consumer and vendor requests.

The letter highlights the widespread non-compliance with the revised net metering timelines set by the DISCOMs. Despite an order issued on February 27, 2024, mandating a reduction in the net metering timeline from 80 days to 18 days, none of the Assistant Engineer offices have adhered to the new guidelines.

Approximately 70% of consumers require load extensions to accommodate their solar installation requirements. However, the DISCOMs’ load extension procedures are cumbersome, often taking months to complete, even in cases where no physical alterations to cables or meters are required onsite.

For the past two months, the PM Surya Ghar National Portal, which serves as the program’s backbone, has been plagued by glitches, causing issues for consumers, vendors, and DISCOM officials. REAR has suggested temporarily allowing offline net metering processes to help prevent further delays.

Meanwhile, various installers told Mercom they could not edit capacity details after submission. They also complained about difficulties in tracking application progress at the portal.

“If a customer makes a mistake in entering the capacity of the solar system, they can’t edit it once after submission. The edit option is not available on the site, and they have to raise a request for it, which is taking more than two weeks to get approved,” said an installer from Telangana.

The installers also described the loan process for consumers under the program as time-consuming, with extended processing times for approvals from institutions like the Small Industrial Development Bank of India (SIDBI).

One vendor raised concerns about the lack of seamless integration between the national portal and the Jan Samarth portal, a platform for credit-linked government programs, and the absence of certain banks and vendors from the latter.

In some states, DISCOMs require consumers to purchase and test meters, leading to delays in system commissioning due to meter availability issues. The Model Code of Conduct for the recently concluded general elections has also delayed customers’ awaiting subsidy amounts.

“After the registration, feasibility approvals take a week or ten days. But in some places, it takes a month for the feasibility check,” an installer said.

Meanwhile, another installer from Chennai rued about issues regarding feasibility approvals. “Under the PM Surya Ghar program, separate 2.5 kW and 3 kW projects were signed but not started due to the subsidy feasibility and portal issues.”

“A 3 kW rooftop solar system can be installed in 10 days, but the state approval process takes 45 to 60 days to do the feasibility check,” an installer from Rajasthan added.

An installer from Telangana also reported availability issues for non-DCR (Domestic Content Requirement) panels, particularly mono-facial panels, which are preferred for smaller installations due to cost considerations.

“Since we need a supply of 30 kW to 100 kW only, distributors are lagging behind our orders. They are now asking for large orders,” he said.

As the challenges mount, REAR has recommended establishing a committee comprising representatives from DISCOMs, vendors, and associations to address issues and explore solutions. It has called for assigning specific targets to the implementing authorities with performance evaluations, clarifying the escalation process for grievances, and introducing state subsidy provisions to incentivize solar energy adoption further.

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