Kerala power consumers with solar panels cry hoarse over ‘inflated’ bills

Customers who opted for the rooftop solar programme are fuming over inflated electricity bills. Many have reported unusually high bills.

ByDileep V Kumar

Published May 13, 2024 | 9:00 AMUpdatedMay 13, 2024 | 11:31 AM

Kerala power consumers with solar panels cry hoarse over ‘inflated’ bills

Customers who have opted for the Kerala State Electricity Board’s (KSEB) rooftop solar programme are fuming over inflated electricity bills.

Many participants, expecting a significant reduction in their power charges, reported receiving unusually high bills for the past two months.

Several aggrieved customers have come forward, expressing their grievances over what they perceive as a breach of trust by the KSEB.

However, the KSEB dismissed the allegations, stating that the dispute might have arisen because such people may not have enough understanding of solar billing.

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A high-profile complaint

Pointing to their recent bills that reportedly showed a surge in charges over the past two months, some customers asserted that the promised benefits of adopting solar energy seem to have been overshadowed by unexpected financial burdens.

An excerpt from the post of Sreelekha. (Facebook)

An excerpt from the post of Sreelekha. (Facebook)

Former DGP Sreelekha R made a social media post regarding the inflated electricity bills. It gave traction to such grievances.

Sreelekha said she decided to install solar panels two years after getting staggering electricity bills. On the advice of some experts, she said, an on-grid solar system was installed (once installed, under this system, the operation is seamless and automatic.

When the solar system generates power over household needs, electricity flows into the grid and the homeowner receives a credit.

“I was happy when it came down to ₹700-800 instead of the previous ₹20,000. But over the past five-six months, it slowly increased. Last month I got a bill of ₹10,030. Electricity consumption has not increased at all,” she posted.

“If you look at their bill, you won’t understand anything. Their explanation is also full of jargon. In short, on-grid is not at all useful. Choose off-grid (living autonomously without relying on a utility for power),” the former DGP added.

The post immediately became viral. Others, too, raised similar complaints.

The disgruntled consumers alleged that KSEB surreptitiously increased their bills despite using solar panels to generate electricity.

“We were promised lower bills with the solar programme, but for the past two months, the charges have been higher than usual,” said one customer.

“There’s a clear lack of transparency, and it seems KSEB is quietly raising bills for solar users.”

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KSEB’s version

According to the KSEB, there was nothing wrong with the billing. It stated that Sreelekha might be unfamiliar with understanding the billing.

KSEB dismissing Sreelekha's post as inaccurate. (Facebook)

KSEB dismissed Sreelekha’s post as inaccurate. (Facebook)

It then examined the electricity bill Sreelekha had shared in her post.

“An on-grid solar power plant with a capacity of 5 kW has been installed there. In April, 557 units were produced from the plant. After real-time use, 290 units of electricity were exported to the grid,” the board said.

“The total power consumption in the household was 1,282 units, that is, 399 units from 6 am to 6 pm, 247 units in peak hours from 6 pm to 10 pm and 636 units in off-peak hours from 10 pm to 6 am,” it said on its official Facebook page.

“KSEB calculates the bill by finding the unit, the electricity imported from the grid, minus electricity exported to the grid. That is, 1282 – 290 = 992 units have been billed. And the amount charged is also correct,” it said.

The KSEB also dismissed the argument that off-grid was better than on-grid.

“There is also the bizarre argument that the off-grid system, which can be stored in a battery and then used, is better than the on-grid system where the electricity generated at the solar plant is then exported to the power network. This is a completely fallacious argument,” it said.

“The battery and the off-grid solar system are relatively less energy-efficient systems,” the board explained.

However, Sreelekha said that the KSEB’s version was baseless.

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KSEB’s solar programme

It was the Ministry of New and Renewable Energy (MNRE) that proposed state-wise targets for grid-connected solar rooftop projects under the National Solar Mission (NSM).

Under the scheme, Kerala has a target of installing 800 megawatts (MW) of grid-connected solar rooftop projects.

To enable rapid deployment of solar rooftop systems in Kerala, a Unified Single Window Clearance Portal for processing Solar Rooftop Photovoltaic (PV) Application named ‘Solar Rooftop Portal – KSEB’ was developed under the support of the Asian Development Bank (ADB) for Grid-Connected Solar Rooftop PV (GRPV).

The portal enabled KSEB consumers to approach the board to interconnect their solar rooftop system with the grid and eligible consumers could avail a subsidy.

According to the KSEB, one of the key objectives identified in the draft State Power Policy was “enhancing the share of ‘renewable energy in the Generation’ Mix”.

However, the major challenge in developing solar power generation in the state has been identified as the lack of vast tracts of land required to establish big plants.

Hence, decentralised solar panels on rooftops were identified as the desired mode for the massive deployment of solar projects in the state.

Kerala launched the ‘Urja Kerala Mission’, an aggressive energy generation and conservation programme. To shore this up, the KSEB implemented the flagship project “SOURA ” to add 1,000 MWp (Megawatt peak) Solar Power Plants to the network of KSEB.

(Edited by Majnu Babu).