Energy From Sun

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Goa needs to redesign its policy to generate enough solar power

GOA has been allocated additional solar power generation capacity under Phase-II of the Grid Connected Rooftop Solar Programme by the Ministry of New and Renewable Energy (MNRE). The state will have to produce 75 MW of additional solar power by the year 2022. The state will now be required to generate a total solar power of 150 MW by November 2022 to meet its renewable purchase obligation. The 75 MW of solar power capacity from residential consumers is an added responsibility. It has to be noted that rooftop solar power in the residential segment has not taken off in the state due to lack of awareness among Goans, absence of people-friendly policy, besides other hurdles. Despite earlier directions from the Centre to produce 75 MW of solar energy Goa has been able to generate just above 5 MW. However, the state’s first solar power project that would produce 5 MW in the residential sector is set to come up shortly. The Goa Energy Development Agency is in the process of implementing the project.

The MNRE has assigned solar power capacities based on the demand estimations received from states. It is surprising that Goa, despite having failed to meet earlier targets, has opted for a higher target. Goa’s additional generating capacity is much higher than that of Haryana which has been given a target of 25 MW, Jharkhand of 50 MW and Meghalaya of 60 MW respectively. The additional quota is part of the central project that envisages a total cumulative capacity of 40,000 MW in the country from rooftop solar projects in the residential sector by the year 2022. As per the central government programme, electricity departments of the states or DISCOMS (distribution companies) have to implement the project through transparent bidding process within the prescribed timeline of 15 months from the date of receipt of the allocation letter, which is November 24. The Centre has not only raised the quantum for solar power generation but also has made it incumbent upon the electricity department to submit a monthly progress report on the implementation status of the project.

Goa does not have any power generation facility of its own and is dependent totally on central power generating plants for supply of energy. The state’s power requirement ranges between 572 MW and 610 MW daily. Goa is supplied around 400 MW from power plants in the western region and 100 MW from the plants from the southern region. The shortfall is overcome by procuring the balance requirement from the open Indian Energy Exchange. Despite getting almost adequate power from the grids, Goans have to face power outages almost on a daily basis, which the authorities attribute to poor transmission facilities and snapping of overhead power lines due to various factors like falling of trees. Though every power minister has promised to upgrade the power transmission and distribution system, the situation has not changed over the decades. Despite knowing the fact that underground cabling was a solution to the frequent outages not much has been done to address the issue and the ongoing projects especially in the coastal areas have been dragged for years.

The generation of solar energy, a cleaner form of energy, will not only help in combating overall pollution that is caused in power generation especially where fossils are used but also ensure that people will get reliable supply. The generation of solar energy would be localized and its transmission and distribution would not be a problem. The state does have a solar energy policy, but it needs redesigning to promote solar power generation in a big way, especially in upcoming residential projects. It remains to be seen how Goa, which has struggled all through in meeting the first target will be able to cope with the additional capacity that has been put on it. The Pramod Sawant government has to remove the obstructive flaws in the solar energy policy. The work on implementing central government directions can then be carried out with a vision.  The state government has to make periodic audits of the projects to ensure that Goa does not lag behind in producing solar energy.