More than a couple of distribution companies will be seen net metering in the country now. While initially Islamabad Electric Supply Company (IESCO) took the lead, recently K Electric among others has also launched its net metering facility for its consumers.
Net metering is a billing arrangement that credits businesses and individuals generating solar power for the additional electricity they add to the grid. The start had been slow as all stakeholders have been reluctant. Where the sector has seen few applications being approved of the total recently, the critics have also been pessimistic about renewables and net metering results in the country. Some of these fears and qualms include the feasibility for residential consumers, the upfront capital expenditure, the long processing time and the policy gaps.
However, just recently the government of Pakistan has updated its 2015 net metering scheme and has reportedly made it more consumers friendly. The government has decreased the average process time from around 4-6 months to less than a month, which was much needed to attract the residential consumers. Previously, critics had been opining that the plan and cost setting (not just the capital cost but also the maintenance and service cost) would work only for bigger units that include commercial and industrial users. However, now the old framework has been simplified and the issues of service and equipment quality have also been addressed, which should improve PV market and adoption.
The net metering concept has taken off successfully around the world. But a comparison with India can give many lessons to Pakistan if it plans to reduce burden through net metering. A more similar market in nature, solar net metering has become essential for India but it’s lagging in various aspects. First is the grid reliability where a problem with the grid can lead to wastage of power generated. Then there are financial constraints as there is a lack of innovative financial incentives like debt financing, tax credits and subsidies to make solar net-metering easier for consumers.
And while the Indian authorities have been focusing on residential rooftop solar, the growth has been slower than the commercial and industrial adoption, which has been primarily due to bureaucratic hurdles. Addressing issues like these at the earliest can help net metering adoption in Pakistan a tad smoother.