The Soura program by Kerala State Electricity Board is revolutionizing the entire state. The success story of residential solar rooftop in Kerala tells you about how the department overcame initial hurdles, especially during the pandemic. Phase 2 of the program has significantly increased the state’s rooftop solar capacity by 127.5 MW. Kerala’s solar energy success is credited to pricing interventions and proactive initiatives, enabling consumer access and meeting installation targets.
Due to the high fertility and cost of leasing, it is difficult to use a significant portion of the land in the state for utility-scale projects. To solve this problem, the state has chosen to focus on rooftop systems to achieve its solar energy goals. Kerala State Electricity Board Limited’s (KSEBL) Soura program is an organization that supports adoption of residential solar rooftop systems. But Kerala faces a unique challenge regarding this and that is its geographical landscape.
The Soura Program and its Initial Challenges
In the 2019-20 Soura program’s Phase 1, KSEB played a vital role as a demand aggregator, fully covering the installation cost of the rooftop project to attract a wider customer base.
- As an incentive, consumers were offered 10% of the solar power generated free of charge for renting out their roof space.
- Moreover, KSEB took complete responsibility for the operational and maintenance aspects for a period of 25 years, with a plan to transfer it to bidders in the future.
- The Ministry of New and Renewable Energy (MNRE) has granted its approval for the Soura Phase 1 program, which entails a capacity of 100 MW split into two segments. One segment enjoys the benefit of a subsidy, while the other operates without any subsidy.
Phase 1 started successfully, with 24 MW installed without subsidies. However, due to the COVID-19 pandemic and other problems, the 2019-20 subsidy program was not implemented effectively. Only 1.951 MW were installed as a result. The unused capacity was returned to MNRE. Unfortunately, the program ended in November 2021.
According to a local installer, the KSEB Soura Phase 1 initiative didn’t achieve the same level of success as Phase 2. Despite being presented as a consumer-friendly rooftop solar program with no financial investment required, many consumers registered without fully comprehending the terms and conditions. The program aimed to provide consumers with 10% of the power generated as compensation for renting their roof space to KSEB. However, due to limitations on roof space that could only support systems below 5 kW, public interest declined significantly.
Unveiling the Success Story of Phase 2
The Soura program Phase 2, which was introduced in November 2020, has proven to be a game-changer. By June 2023, this phase has successfully added a remarkable 127.5 MW to the state’s rooftop solar installations. A major contribution came from KSEB, with an impressive installation of 122.17 MW, while the Agency for New and Renewable Energy Research and Technology (ANERT) made their mark by adding another 5.33 MW. When combined with Phase 1, the Soura program as a whole has significantly contributed to the state’s solar power capacity, boasting an impressive 153.5 MW of rooftop installations.
In response to the KSEB’s request, the MNRE have granted a six-month extension to Phase 2. This extension not only provided ample time until September 2023 for project completion, but it also enables consumers to receive subsidies based on the revised benchmark cost. With this commendable decision, the program is now set on a definite path towards achieving the ambitious solar installation target of 200 MW.
Also See: Top 10 Rooftop Solar Companies in India
Effective Pricing Strategies
The success story of residential solar rooftop in Kerala wouldn’t have been possible without the strategic pricing interventions by KSEB. It is highly responsible for shaping the solar market in Kerala. Back in 2018, when Soura program was introduced, the installation cost was around 80,000 (~$960) per kW, decreasing to 60,000 (~$720) per kW in the following year, and further down to 50,000 (~$600) per kW.
The KSEB official mentioned that the correction of market rates by the state distribution company has made solar energy more accessible to consumers.
According to him, in order to combat the unethical practices of installers, who were taking advantage of the public’s lack of knowledge about solar project pricing, KSEB took decisive action. They compiled and published a comprehensive price list specifically for rooftop solar projects, ensuring that it was easily accessible to all. This proactive measure effectively compelled installers to reevaluate and adjust their prices in alignment with the new transparent pricing standards.
The Soura program had over 300,000 registrations. KSEB’s proactive staff inspected and evaluated each applicant’s premises, making the application process easier. This effort sparked a renewable energy awareness campaign in Kerala, leading to significant growth in the renewable energy sector in the following year.
Solar City Project
The Solar City Project is another remarkable initiative that supports the development of rooftop solar installations in Kerala.
The Thiruvananthapuram district has recently been designated as a solar city, leading to the release of over 20 rooftop solar tenders. These tenders, totaling approximately 14.7 MW, have already received work orders starting from January 2023. By the end of June 2023, a remarkable 2.02 MW of solar installations have been accomplished, with 372 kW already commissioned.
ANERT has identified buildings where another 2 MW of installations can be done. These installations will be tendered very soon. Their goal is to commission a total of 16 MW on government buildings by March 2024.
The next goal is to install solar panels on commercial and residential rooftops, in order to meet the requirements for a solar city. The current KSEB Soura and ANERT Soura Thejus rooftop solar subsidy programs are already focused on residential properties. So far, a total of 5.33 MW of rooftop solar has been installed through the Soura Thejus program as of June 2023, according to an ANERT official.
So ultimately, the credit for the success of residential solar rooftop in Kerala goes to Soura Program and ANERT. Under this, distributed solar generation has successfully reduced energy losses by eliminating the need for power transmission.