Urban solar subsidy receives lukewarm response

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    KATHMANDU, March 31: The government´s new policy to provide subsidy for people in urban areas to install solar panels has received a lukewarm response.
    Aiming to reduce the burden on the national grid of the Nepal Electricity Authority (NEA), the government had introduced a policy to provide subsidy for people in 15 municipalities, including five within the Kathmandu valley, to set up solar panels at their houses.

    The Alternative Energy Promotion Center (AEPC), the government agency responsible for distributing solar subsidy, had set a target to provide solar subsidies to 25,000 families within this fiscal year, which will end mid-July, 2014. However, in the first nine months of the ongoing fiscal year, less than 150 families, none of them outside the valley, applied for the subsidy.

    Solar Installation

    On Monday, the Ministry of Science, Technology and Environment (MoSTE) informed that only 108 families have so far applied for solar subsidy, which is quite insignificant compared to the AEPC´s target. “The response that we received from the urban dwellers to our solar subsidy program is very discouraging,” said Dr Govinda Pokharel, executive director of the AEPC. “It has compelled us to revise our strategies for urban solar subsidy program.”

    As per the government´s policy, the AEPC will provide Rs 5,000 for urban families who install up to 200-watt solar panels. Similarly, those urban families who install over 200-watt solar panels will get Rs 8,000. “For the urban dwellers, the subsidy amount is perhaps too less,” said Dr Pokharel. “Besides, the process of receiving subsidy is lengthy. If we really want to encourage the urban dwellers to apply for solar subsidy, we should perhaps ease the process and increase the subsidy amount.”

    According to Ram Prasad Dhital, Solar Program Manager at the AEPC, the difficulty in buying optimizer, a device that helps solar panels get recharged from solar power instead of electricity, has also deterred the urban dwellers from applying for solar subsidy.

    “If optimizers are not fitted, solar panels, when solar-charged batteries are down in the night, automatically get recharged from electricity,” said Dhital. “If solar panels get recharged from electricity, it would not serve our interest. Our goal is to save electricity by promoting solar energy. So, fitting optimizer in solar panels is a prerequisite for the urban dwellers to get subsidy.” Unfortunately, according to Dhital, optimizers, also known as prioritizers, are not easily available in the local market.

    By encouraging the urban dwellers to install solar panels, the AEPC aims to save 14 units of electricity, supplied through the NEA´s national grid, per house per month. “Of course, we will not save a big amount of electricity-energy,” said Dhital. “But, it will certainly help us beat power-outage.”

    Until last year, solar subsidy was only for the people livening in villages. As the load shedding-hit urban dwellers´ dependency on inverters increased, causing electricity leakage, the government, early last year, introduced a new policy for providing solar subsidy to the urban dwellers, too.

    Source : Republica