I had a visitor fairly early this morning. Karthik, the person who had so diligently come to meet me, was an aspiring entrepreneur (currently a software programmer).
His question whether it was a good idea to start a business for the rooftop solar PV installation for Chennai.
To cut a long story short, I told him “No”.
The reason is simple. Chennai households pay about Rs 3.5 per kWh; solar rooftop panels will produce electricity at above Rs 10 per kWh (even after a capital subsidy of 30%). And Chennai does not have too many power cuts. Who the heck is going to buy the solar panels for their rooftops except some geeks who wish to show off?
However, I told him, all is not lost in the context of solar PV opportunities for small entrepreneurs. He could explore being a system integrator to install small solar PV power plants (sub 100 kW) at many commercial establishments and industries in and around the city. For many of these entities, solar PV could make sense as these companies do have load shedding in their areas and are used to utilizing diesel gensets as a backup (and the power from DG sets cost about Rs 12/kWh anyway!).
Also, if the government were to announce feed-in-tariffs for rooftop solar PV systems, the equation could change drastically and payback periods could crash to under 5 years (as opposed to about 15 years right now).
One last tip I gave the aspiring entrepreneur was to consider other cleantech opportunities that are not necessarily power or fuel production-based. You can see some examples of these here.