Like Home Loans, Banks Need To Support Rooftop Projects: Ketan Mehta
In 2010, solar industry was just taking off. Foreseeing its bright future, the UPA government then had launched National Solar Mission with a target to achieve 25,000 megawatt by 2022. Of course, the targets have been revised upward significantly by Prime Minister Narendra Modi-led NDA government to 1 lakh MW. As an undergraduate student in IIT-Roorkee, Ketan Mehta was following the developments in those days. Being from the land deserts where the solar irradiance was highest in the country, the pull was natural for Ketan to take an interest in the sun-rise sector.
“As we had lot of spare time during our last semester, we wanted to do something innovative. The Centre had outlined a vision for solar industry in India. I was from Rajasthan and had some idea about the prospect of solar in the desert state. As students, new things excited us. The combination of all these factors got us interested in solar. We did some research. That’s how I along with a classmate decided to work on solar,” recalls Ketan Mehta, CEO of the Jaipur-based Rays Power Infra.
By the time Ketan passed out, he not only had a concrete business plan, but also started a small consulting business. “We had created a small base by the time we passed out and worked for government projects. We sold those projects at good valuations and with the proceeds we started the company in 2011. Rays Power Infra, an EPC company is now there for 5 years.
Being the largest state in India with cheap land and high radiance, Ketan believes Rajasthan has immense potential. But concerns remain. “The poor financial state of discoms leading to untimely payment and low power demand in Rajasthan compared to states have somewhat dampened the optimism,” adds Ketan.
Even though the discoms have been covered under Uday scheme, it will take some time for them to gain some firm footing in terms of their financial health. But Ketan believes that there is big scope for open access but the infrastructure is very limited. “The discoms need to have enough evacuation facilities. Besides, the transmission charges are also high,” added Ketan.
There are huge advantages for Rajasthan with regard to land. In other states, solar projects are put up using agriculture land which is not only costlier but also lacks the high levels of radiance one finds in Rajasthan.
“Given this scenario, Rajasthan has lot of barren land. Lot of open access projects can be attracted into the state but the government has to understand the multifarious benefits of these products and promote the segment aggressively,” he added.
Besides big projects, Rajasthan should look at promoting smaller plants. This will encourage the local entrepreneurs and MSMEs in the sector.
“A policy for small projects is the need of the day to generate power at local level. Such a policy can catalyse interest to develop 1-2 MW plants in Rajasthan. Besides, big industries should also engage local MSME suppliers that will boost the local economy,” added Ketan.
After the announcement of net-metering there is some momentum in the rooftop solar segment. But, according to Ketan, the discom officials are scared of losing high value customers. “They should look at the development of rooftop solar as a positive development for the state. Rooftop will save 40% distribution or transmission losses as seen in other methods of power supply. This is a win-win situation for the customers, state and the nation,” added Ketan.
“Rooftop brings in lots of advantages to customers, smaller businessmen and big cooperates as well. Like financing facilities available to home and car buyers, this sector should also be extended such loans. The loan size is also not bigger like for a house. If anyone decides to setup a rooftop plant, costs may start from Rs 3 to 15 lakh. So, banks should be pushed to support solar plants as home loans or car loans. The monthly saving of power can be paid as EMI to the bank. That’s how mass deployment of rooftop solar will happen and everybody can be a power producer,” added Ketan
Ketan had made many projects in Andhra, Telangana, Karnataka, Uttarakhand, Punjab, UP, and Kerela. Rays Power Infra has delivered a capacity of 325 MW and expects to complete 200 MW more by the end of this year.
For solar, storage is a challenge now to provide power at night. High rates of taxes have made batteries unaffordable. Even the batteries available now have very less life.
“In coming 2-3 years, big plants too will be completely run on batteries in both day and night, eliminating the major drawback of being an infirm power which is unpredictable and dependent on weather. When storage facilities will be available, thermal power production may be completely replaced in coming 5-7 years,” added Ketan.