Sun yet to shine on solar power potential of J&K

  • Haroon Mirani
  • Publish Date: Apr 22 2019 5:27AM
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  • Updated Date: Apr 22 2019 5:27AM
Sun yet to shine on solar power potential of J&KRepresentational Pic

Centre for Science and Environment, a public interest research and advocacy organisation based in New Delhi, has painted a grim picture of Jammu and Kashmir regarding exploitation of its solar power potential as the state has been able to install just 19 MW Solar Roof Top (SRT) capacity in the last year. 

 

The state is at the bottom of the list of 22 states in India with  varying potential for generation of solar energy.

 

A report by CSE placed J&K even below Bihar which has managed to install 20 MW SRT power. The total capacity addition in India has been 3399 MW with Maharashtra, Tamil Nadu and Karnataka leading the pack with 473, 312 and 273 MWs respectively.

 

The state has been labeled as a laggard ever since Union Ministry of New and renewable Energy (MNRE) launched the Jawaharlal Nehru Solar Mission in 2010. Under the mission India has set a target of producing 100 GW including 40 GW in rooftop plants, of solar electricity by 2022.

 

Jammu and Kashmir was given a modest target of producing 450 MW of solar power. With a target of installing more than 50 MW per year, the state has been stuck at the lowest possible

figure.

 

The other side of the coin in equally baffling with experts and even insiders suggesting that installation of even 19 MW was far fetched.

 

“I can tell you about Kashmir and Jammu regions. We have installed SRT amounting to 8 MWs. Of this 5 MWs are in Kashmir and rest in Jammu,” said Executive Engineer Khalid Mahmood, who oversees solar division at Jammu Kashmir Energy Development Agency (JAKEDA).

 

“In Ladakh region the solar installation is done by Ladakh Renewable Energy Development Agency (LREDA) and Kargil Renewable Energy Development Agency (KREDA).”

 

In 2017 J&K’s Science and Technology minister had announced that the state would have created 54 MW of  solar power capacity by the end of the year. However, that target remained

a pipedream, as were other earlier targets.

 

Khalid attributed the inability to exploit SRT capacity in J&K to a number of reasons.

 

“The primary reason is the shortage of resources. Though for solar centre gives 60 percent funds and the state has to manage 40 percent, but at the time the state is unable to provide its share, causing shortfalls,” he said. 

 

The JAKEDA provides 70 percent subsidy to any house owner who wants to install SRT panels on their homes, subject to maximum of 50 percent capacity of their power agreement

with Power Development Department (PDD).

 

 

However, according to officials many house owners who consume 5 KW power have agreements of just 1 KW or below. So, they need to enhance  PDD agreement to 5KW to get 2.5 KW SRT panels at 70 percent subsidy.Many house owners are usually hesitant to increase their load agreements.

 

Officials also say cheap electricity tariffs were stumbling block towards utilising solar resources.

 

 

“We have the cheapest electricity in domestic sector in entire India. Here it can cost anywhere between Rs 2-2.5 per unit whereas outside it can cost more than Rs 6. So people are not

forced to look towards solar energy to save their money,” said Khalid. According to sources relevant government departments have also been giving a cold shoulder to JAKEDA when it reaches out to them for installing solar panels.

 

 

Solar power generation and installation has been caught in red tape due to inability of officials to learn about its benefits. When a major entrepreneurial training institute was approached for installing solar panels on its roof, the head of the office declined by saying that it will ruin the aesthetics and beauty of the building.

 

 

A major college in Srinagar first agreed and then backed out of getting free 300 KW SRT. The principal asked the JAKEDA team to get a signed MOU from Commissioner Secretary level. A 200 KW plant at Womens College MA Road is waiting for commissioning for want of installation of net metering.

 

 

The JAKEDA installed 200 KW plant at SKIMS and when another 300 KW was to be installed the management of institute withdrew its hand.  It started demanding one certificate after another forcing the free power plant shelved.

 

 

At many other departments the solar survey team were not even allowed to enter. When JAKEDA tried to assess the solar power potential of civil secretariat, for days they couldn’t locate the concerned officials as everybody declined being incharge. Frustratingly, the teams had to give up on their endeavour.

 

 

Interestingly, the only department that has been at the forefront to benefit from solar power has been Jammu Kashmir Police. In fact the SRT plant  at police headquarters in Peerbagh

is being termed as a success story. The well-maintained plant generated around 35000 units of power in three months alone last year. Riding on the success, the police department

has installed the SRT panels at many police stations too.

 

The officials, however, try to downplay the response of government departments.

 

“Majority of departments are enthusiastic about the solar power and they readily cooperate with us. There are some issues with other departments, but with more awareness

and information hopefully they also come around,” said Khalid.

 

The J&K state’s own Action Plan on Climate Change also heavily advocates the use of solar energy as a means to combat the impact of climate change. The plan has given

out a number of steps right from the strengthening of JAKEDA, LREDA and KREDA to fast tracking the installation of SRT plants and making it mandatory for new buildings to install

SRT plants and solar water heating systems.

 

According to experts if all government offices are covered with solar panels in the state, it can easily generate 250 - 300 MWs of electricity at a minimal cost.

 

“If a similar capacity hydropower plant is planned it will need a lot more money and around six years time period, but solar could be installed in few months only,” said an expert.

 

“Solar can go a long way in redressing our power woes if the government becomes active like other states to exploit it. Leave aside major solar plants which need huge land, we are just talking of utilising unused rooftop space. Even that is a herculean task in government here.”