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Net Zero by Narsi is a series of brief posts by Narasimhan Santhanam (Narsi), on decarbonization and climate solutions.
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The Indian Middle Class Rooftop

 Earlier today, I had to be on the rooftop of an acquaintance for a religious function, located in a typical Chennai middle class neighbourhood.

I was left alone for about fifteen minutes, and after a few moments wondering what to do, I started looking around. And found that I was peering over the rooftops around me (that’s the pic you see below) in a way that would have made them a bit uneasy were they living things.

This weird fixation was because, here in front of and all around me were the classic Indian middle class rooftops, an item that has come into the limelight thanks to the interest in rooftop solar.

Fifteen minutes is a lot of time if you know what you are looking for, and I could analyze a few dozen rooftops – let’s say about a hundred. And the following are my observations:

1. Most of them were in the 700-1000 sq ft area range

2. Only about 50% of them had continuous rooftops, for the rest these were either split into two elevations, or there were other structures, etc

3. Almost 75% of them had an AC

4. 10-15% of them had a covering on top to provide shade – usually plastic sheets

5. About 10% of them had some aspirations to grow some greenery

6. Just one of them had a solar water heater

7. NONE of them had solar panels

8. NONE had white/reflective painting (I added this after a comment about such a solution)

There are about 125 middle million households in India, and though only a portion might live in independent houses, that’s still a large number, so it is not surprising that this is a sector of significant interest to companies in the distributed energy sector (SunEdison Energy India Private Limited, Emmvee Group, Tata Power Renewable Energy Limited, Havells India Ltd, Waaree Energies Private Limited, SolarSquare Energy, LOOM SOLAR PVT. LTD., Navitas Solar, SundayGrids).

I did not intend to write a white paper on this (thankfully!), but I’m hoping those in the solar energy sector (both PV and thermal) can do something with the above observations. Of course, a hundred houses is hardly a representative sample for a country as large as India, but surely there’s something we can learn from this?

One interesting thought that crossed my mind (apart from the obvious potential for both solar PV & thermal for these rooftops) was whether it could be attractive if a DE solution provider is able to offer many things for a rooftop/household – PV (perhaps elevated ones), thermal, AC energy efficiency, and even rooftop gardening solutions?

Put another way, is there a market for an offering that positions itself as “Make your rooftop habitable, green, enable clean energy and energy efficiency” instead of just saying “Make your rooftop generate clean energy”?

Just thinking…

Pashu Gopalan | Hitesh Doshi | Shivram Bikkina | Sanjeev Aggarwal | Kushagra Nandan | Neeraj Jain | Amit Barve | Animesh Manek | Sharath Devineni | Vineet Mittal

See my LinkedIn post on this topic

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About Narasimhan Santhanam (Narsi)

Narsi, a Director at EAI, Co-founded one of India's first climate tech consulting firm in 2008.

Since then, he has assisted over 250 Indian and International firms, across many climate tech domain Solar, Bio-energy, Green hydrogen, E-Mobility, Green Chemicals.

Narsi works closely with senior and top management corporates and helps then devise strategy and go-to-market plans to benefit from the fast growing Indian Climate tech market.


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