Energy expert highlights loopholes in subsidized solar power promo campaigns

The households that have installed solar power panels and are supplying a net excess of electricity to the national grid under the government subsidized solar promotion programmes are placing further burdens on those who do not generate solar power, according to a leading expert.

“When a customer makes his bill zero through net metering or net plus or net accounting or whatever, when his bill is zero, he pays, theoretically, at least a retail service cost,” RMA Consultants Managing Director Dr. Tilak Siyambalapitiya said. However, this does not happen, reducing revenue for the state-run utilities companies and potentially placing such costs among the rest of the households, which do not supply such an excess of electricity to the grid and reduce their bills to zero.

The total cost not charged from solar PV households has increased from Rs.12 million in 2012 to Rs.1 billion by 2016 and is increasing further, according to Dr. Siyambalapitiya, who spoke at the public consultation on rooftop solar PV, organised by the Public Utilities Commission of Sri Lanka (PUCSL).

“So what happens today? A customer who doesn’t have a solar PV system or a customer who can’t afford a solar PV system or a customer who doesn’t have a roof to mount his solar PV system,

is paying the capacity charge of the net metered and net plus and other customers and so on,” he said.

The government is providing subsidies for households to install solar panels, in order to minimize the country going into a power crisis before the year 2020, when the first of the many delayed major power plants are expected to become operational. Environmentally-friendly agendas are also present, which were furthered under the 2018 budget.

Dr. Siyambalapitiya however said that the promotional subsidies provided to induce households to purchase solar PV systems have been going on for around a decade, which is not present in other businesses.

He said that the Christmas promotions currently going on for other businesses will end in a month or so, when such businesses revert to normal operations.
“So promotion is going on, no harm, as long as somebody pays for the promotion. Governments can decide to provide subsidies. But what I say is that not to ignore this developing problem, in which utilities are asked to forgo the distribution revenue due to them by the customers and not defining who pays this,” he said.
The government has committed to also charge cost-reflective electricity prices from consumers next year

The grid is also experiencing higher voltage than it could handle due to solar power directly being supplied to the grid, many experts highlighted at the public consultation, which Dr. Siyambalapitiya too acknowledged.

He said that the PUCSL should not focus only on the good side of household solar power generation but do a complete assessment on the effects of longer-term proliferation of solar PV among households.“Because if you miss certain things, it may be possible that sometime in the near future, the entire programme will be suspended or it may be suspended for review and it may never be started again,” he said.Dr. Siyambalapitiya took responsibility for writing a concept paper in 2008, which resulted in the government approving the net metering concept.

“I had very few supporters then but today also when I express caution, my supporters in 2008 are now against me,” he said.–142228.html

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