Open access charges on purchase of solar power in West Bengal are likely to reduce as the state government is focusing on removing hurdles for consumers, an official said. “The new solar policy of the government is focusing on the open access hurdle and trying to make the charges more affordable, at least for solar power, to encourage private investments in this form of renewable energy,” West Bengal Renewable Energy Development Authority’s governing body member, Sujan Pandit told media.
Open access technically allows an industrial consumer to buy power from any utility or power exchange in the country but it has to pay a charge to the state government to do so. In West Bengal, the rate is so high that open access is not used by consumers. Pandit said the solar power policy will lay the foundation for West Bengal electricity regulator to lower or abolish the charge. State government was trying to set up solar parks with capacity of 10 MW by encouraging private sector. The Centre will also offer viability gap funding for such projects.
The Centre has given a target of 4500 MW of solar power capacity for West Bengal as part of the solar mission by 2022. The state government was also trying to broad-base the users of rooftop solar generation and in this regard the new policy was planning to reduce the minimum solar panel capacity from 5KW to either 1 KW or 2 KW size for net metering. Net metering is a billing mechanism that credits solar energy system owners for the electricity they add to the grid.
Pandit further said that initially the plan is to rollout in Kolkata, Salt lake and adjoining areas where infrastructure is stable, before spreading it across the state. “There is possibility of grid problem in rural areas for injecting power into the grid for net metering and so to begin with we propose to start from city,” he said. State Power Minister Sobhondeb Chatterjee has said that the draft policy is ready and after consultation the government will unveil the policy.