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Rooftop solar panel users in Kerala decry generation duty hike – EQ

Rooftop solar panel users in Kerala decry generation duty hike – EQ


In Short : Rooftop solar panel users in Kerala are voicing concerns over the hike in generation duty. This increase poses challenges for individuals and businesses invested in solar energy, highlighting the need for policy measures that support and incentivize renewable energy adoption rather than imposing additional financial burdens.

In Detail : Levy has been raised from 1.2 paise to 15 paise per unit from April 1

THIRUVANANTHAPURAM : Consumers who have installed rooftop solar panels have been dealt a severe blow with a steep increase in electricity generation duty imposed on them. The levy on consumers who generate energy for their consumption has been raised from 1.2 paise to 15 paise per unit from April 1.

Moreover, consumer groups have decided to move legally against the power department, the KSEB and the chief electrical inspector for violating the central government’s decision that generation duty should not be collected for solar power, which is renewable energy.

The chief electrical inspector had come out with an order dated March 27 stating that electricity generation duty would be imposed on all licensees from the start of the financial year. It was only when consumers received their generation bills this month that the additional burden came to light. Besides this tariff, these consumers also pay a fixed charge, meter rent, energy charges, duty, fuel surcharge and monthly fuel surcharge. One consumer’s Rs 2,380 bill included Rs 89.55 in generation duty.

Discussion threads on the Kerala Solar Power Community Facebook page, which includes those who have installed rooftop solar panels among its 72,000 members, have been deeply critical of the move.

Jameskutty Thomas, a rooftop solar power unit owner who is also a retired electrical inspector, said that it was in 1968 that the state government promulgated the Electrical Duty Act and Rules that said 1.2 paise per unit of power should be procured from consumers.

‘Violates central directive’

“The 2023-24 state budget increased it to 15 paise per unit. This was despite the Centre maintaining that consumers cannot be charged generation duty for renewable energy. For every Rs 6 per unit of power generated, the duty has gone up by 11.5%. For instance, a person who receives Rs 1,260 as generation bill will have to pay Rs 100-120 as generation duty,” Thomas told TNIE.

Chief electrical inspector G Vinod said the 1968 Rules did not have any mention of solar power. The electrical inspectorate had proposed amending the legislation.

“Since there have been many complaints from consumers, we had apprised the state government of the Centre’s recommendation not to impose generation duty. We are awaiting a policy decision. Also, currently the full budget has not yet been approved. Once the discussion arises, we will highlight the issue again,” said Vinod.

According to the Solar Producers’ Association, the Kerala State Electricity Regulatory Commission did not have a role in the decision. The commission has called a meeting of rooftop solar panel owners in Thiruvananthapuram on May 15.

Gross metering grouse

At the meeting, customers are also expected to raise objections against the introduction of gross meters. They are peeved as a decision to roll in a gross metering system was called off after widespread protests two years ago. Those who feed solar power to KSEB’s grid and use KSEB’s power for household purposes were thus far required to pay only for the excess power used. This was measured using the net metering system. The board’s decision to switch to gross metering has come under flak from solar-power generators. They allege that this will result in separate meters for solar power and electricity used for household purposes. Until now, a solar power user who returns excess power to the KSEB was getting I2.69 a unit. With the introduction of gross metering, this is expected to drop to I2.50-2.15.

Anand Gupta Editor - EQ Int'l Media Network