New Delhi: In a bid to become a 100 per cent environment-friendly metro network, the Delhi Metro Rail Corporation (DMRC) is planning to use solar power and phase out thermal energy by 2021. The organisation first started harnessing solar energy to meet its power needs in 2014. It started with a small 500 kilowatt peak (kWp) solar rooftop plant at Dwarka Sector 21 station in South-West Delhi in August 2014 and has now grown its rooftop solar project to 53 stations and 12 depots producing a total of 28 megawatt peak (MWp) or 22.6 million units of electricity. DMRC aims to power all its 271 stations in the next two years. On an average DMRC consumes about 1,100 million units of electricity annually.
Talking about the initiative, Anuj Dayal, Executive Director, Corporate Communications, Delhi Metro Rail Corporation told NDTV,
The Delhi Metro has been working continuously towards the conservation of the environment and the efforts have also reaped the desired results. In the Financial Year 2018-19, approximately 22.6 million units of energy were generated by the rooftop solar plants resulting in savings of 20,850 tonnes of harmful carbon dioxide emissions.
In addition to the rooftop solar power, DMRC has started receiving 27mega watt of solar power from Rewa Ultra Mega Solar Limited (RUMSL) in Madhya Pradesh from April this year at a cost of Rs. 2.97 per unit for 25 years. From this inter-state open solar deal, DMRC will be procuring more than 345 million units of electricity during the contract period. The energy received from the Rewa solar project will be soon increased to 99 megawatt. Mr. Dayal said,
Solar energy from Rewa project and DMRC’s in-house rooftop solar installations put together, meets more than 30 per cent of the overall annual energy requirement of the organisation.
Mr. Dayal added that till now, the solar power generated by the rooftop plants installed in DMRC premises were utilised for the auxiliary requirements such as lighting and air conditioning of stations and depots. However, with the energy received from Rewa solar project, it will be able to operate the trains as well. It had recently powered one train on the Violet Line and there are plans to run more trains using solar power.
He further said that in terms of infrastructure, finance, and technology, DMRC did not face any challenges in its transition from being dependent on thermal power to gradually increasing its dependence on renewable sources. However, the only limiting factor is the lengthy process of fair bidding for tenders and making contracts.
According to J. P. Singh, a solar expert from J. P. Consultants, Consultants for solar projects,
DMRC’s solar power project is in line with the targets promised in the Paris agreement to which India is one of the 170 signatories to adopt renewable energy to combat the rising temperature of the planet. India has made great progress in solar energy by increasing its capacity by 10 times in the last decade to keep up its Paris agreement commitment for the environment to limit carbon emission.
The organisation can save over Rs. 138 crore every year because of going solar. Mr Dayal said,
This is the first project in the country to supply power to an inter-state open access customer. Cost per unit for DMRC including the transmission charges would be around Rs. 3.67 which is approximately half of the current buying cost of about Rs.9 for commercial use. The commercial value of 34.5 crore units at an average saving of Rs. 4 per unit would be 138 crores every year.
When asked about views on DMRC’s solar power initiatives and other green efforts, a few metro riders said that they were not aware of these efforts. Others appreciated the increasing use of renewable by the metro network. Anil Tyagi, a 43 year-old daily commuter said,
Delhi is a city where vehicular congestion and air pollution are two big problems. Had DMRC not been there, the city would have been submerged in the ocean of vehicles. It is highly appreciable that DMRC is trying to cut its own carbon footprints while also contributing to curbing some vehicular emissions.
Why Solar Power Adoption Is Slow In India?
As per Mr. Singh, while the government has been pushing for renewable energy generation for the past few years, there have been three major factors that have prevented the adoption of solar energy among individuals and organisations.
First is the availability of the technology which has increased only over the past few years due to the advancement of research and development. The second factor is the availability of ‘net metering’. In the past when solar power was generated, the unused electricity could not be stored and thus used to be wasted. However, with the development of ‘Net Meters’ the extra power can be sent back to the grid of the power distribution companies and stored in it which can be utilised when power generation is low. The consumer, in this model, needs to pay only for the extra units consumed over and above the units generated. The third factor influencing the growth of the renewable energy sector, as per Mr. Singh is the myth related to this technology. He said.
Earlier, people used to think that on less sunny days, there will be no or very less power generated which is not true as now with net metering one the energy produced during peak sun periods of a day can be saved and sent to the grid. The gird gets power from multiple sources to ensure continuous power supply to consumers.
According to Mandvi Singh, an expert from the Centre for Science and Environment, there are few more challenges faced by the renewable energy industry, especially the solar industry. She said,
The country is targeting to produce 175 gigawatts (GW) of renewable energy by 2022 but we have produced only 78 GW till now. We are already running behind the target and have to work harder to achieve those. However, the inefficient process of auctions and bidding is currently posing an obstacle for the scaling up of the solar industry. Along with this, there are hindrances from electricity distribution companies (DISCOMS) as well since these companies deal in thermal power and are afraid to lose consumers to alternate energy. So sometimes, consumers mostly face problems in getting net-meter connection and wiring infrastructure from DISCOMS.