Tangedco delays net-meters; roof-top solar plants useless

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CHENNAI: Tamil Nadu’s roof-top solar power policy that helps consumers cut down their electricity bills by sending back generated power to the grid is in a crisis.
Many with roof-top solar power plants haven’t got bi-directional net meters from Tamil Nadu Generation and Distribution Corporation (Tangedco) for 4-6 months, and in some cases 11 months. There is no way to calculate the solar power generated without the meters and the consumers aren’t able to enjoy the benefits of the plants.

The Tamil Nadu Solar Energy Developers Association (TNSEDA) estimates that nearly 3,000 such installations, adding to at least 4MW and an investment of Rs 35 crore, remain idle. TN has around 4,910 rooftop solar plants with a capacity of 91 MW.

The policy says two categories of high tension (HT) consumers are to be given the meters, yet by Tangedco’s own admission, no HT consumer has been given the meter.

In neighbouring states like Karnataka, consumers can buy meters and get them registered by the discom that also pays them a higher amount for the solar power generated than their per unit tariff.

TOI spoke to at least five installers who said many customers had been waiting since August 2016 for meters. A consumer in Coimbatore approached Consumer Grievance Redressal Forum last month saying he had not got a meter since December 2016. The Tangedco official concerned admitted the last meter delivered was on September 11, 2016 and he was waiting for delivery from the head office. Worse, bribes of Rs 6,000 (Coimbatore and other districts) to Rs 10,000 (Chennai) have to paid for a meter that costs Rs 6,500, say installers.

TNSEDA secretary Venkatesh told TOI that many irate consumers were seeking to un-install their idle plants.

“People have taken personal loans at 14% interest hoping for lower power bills. But they are made to wait for 4-5 months for net meters and are frustruated,” he said.

Experts say the power utility seems to be scuttling the policy deliberately citing losses. “That seems to be the idea. It is a violation of the Tamil Nadu Energy Regulatory Commission (TNERC) policy. But unlike earlier, Tangedco seems to be going un-punished,” said former TNERC director (engineering) P Muthusamy.

Tangedco chairman and managing director M Saikumar said meters would not be distributed till TNERC ruled on a petition filed by the utility on change in billing software. “We will order net meters based on the calculation after the TNERC order,” he said.

A May 2 RTI reply shows Tangedco ordered 3,195 meters to be delivered by June 10. The delivery was put on hold till July-end for any changes in specs based on TNERC order, said Saikumar. There has been no official communication regarding this and Tangedco has stopped accepting roof-top solar applications, say installers.

Source: Times of India

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