It’s a little less than a month shy of the deadline and yet as many as 1,000 households of Chandigarh still haven’t installed solar panels, according to Chandigarh Renewable Energy and Science & Technology Promotion Society (CREST).
According to CREST, 1,500 residential properties have already installed solar panels and around 5,000 have applied for permission to do so.
It was in May 2016 that the UT Administration mandated all residential and non-residential buildings measuring 500 square yards and above to install solar panels in a bid to make Chandigarh the first solar city of the country as envisaged in 2008. They were given a deadline of May 6, 2016, which was further extended to November 2018, and finally to June 30, 2019.
While in totality, 30MW of solar power panels have been installed in the UT, CREST is eyeing 69MW by 2022. Citizens have been guaranteed a subsidy of around 30 per cent on the cost of the solar panels, and the move is touted to be a step towards making the city self-reliant in terms of its energy needs. Despite the seeming advantages, residents appear apprehensive about installing solar panels.
“There are two things at work here: one is lack of awareness and the other is pricing. People get their return on money after 10-odd years, which does not make the option economical for many. On top of that, people also face hurdles in getting their promised subsidies. This should be countered by increasing the subsidy, and reducing the cost of installation. If this is followed, I’m sure people will be more than happy to switch to solar energy,” says Rajat Malhotra, general secretary of Chandigarh Residents Associations Welfare Federation (CRAWFED).
Debendra Dalai, director of CREST, dismisses claims that the panels are expensive and doesn’t believe the naysayers. “The fact is, its cost has gone down and efficiency has gone up. It took somewhere around Rs 120 /W to install a solar panel in 2012-13; now it has come down to almost Rs 50/W. Based on your consumption patterns, you will recover the cost in six-seven years. I don’t see a single disadvantage in this move.”
Out of the 120 schools in the UT, 81 have installed solar panels, as have all 14 government colleges, according to CREST. The two bus stands (ISBT Sector 17, ISBT Sector 43) too have been made self-sufficient by use of solar power. CREST also states that 261 government buildings have installed panels, and soon all police stations will be equipped with Solar Photo-Voltaic Systems.
Talking about efforts to woo the remaining residents, Dalai says they have been changing mindsets gradually. “We go door to door convincing people to adopt solar panels. We’ve also spoken to RWAs, MWAs, and they are eventually coming around.”