Suraj Vallamkonda bought a new electric scooter as a step
towards reducing his carbon footprint and tackling climate
change. But when he plugged it in to recharge, he realised he
was using fossil fuels to power his scooter, not green energy.
One solution, he knew, would be to install solar panels on
But his home terrace, with its thriving herb garden, did not
have enough space for panels, so he decided to invest instead in
“solar biscuits”, or portions of panels in an existing system.
Vallamkonda tapped into solar power produced miles away via
a start-up business that helps meet individuals’ clean energy
needs at home with power produced by solar panels mounted on big
malls, schools and other sites across India.
The Bengaluru resident invested in solar panels virtually,
earning him credits that offset his electricity bill at home.
Start-ups like SundayGrids are
making rooftop solar power accessible to urban Indians like
Vallamkonda and boosting India’s ambitious renewable energy
programme, which aims to move the nation away from its reliance
on fossil fuels like coal.
“The idea for the start-up came from the fact that most of
us did not have access to a rooftop,” said
Mathew Samuel, co-founder of SundayGrids.
“We were mostly living in rented apartments, often moving
cities; and as an individual, the economics of it and how to
install (panels) were also a challenge. But we wanted our say in
climate action, like so many other people do,” he said.
Rooftop solar is seen as a cost-effective, efficient and
easy-to-implement way to meet India’s rising energy demands.
More than 700 million Indians have gained access to
electricity since 2000, with about 97 per cent of the population now
connected to on- or off-grid power, according to the
International Energy Agency (IEA).
An expanding economy, growing population, urbanisation and
industrialisation mean India will see the largest increase in
energy demand of any country in the next two decades, according
to an IEA report on the country’s 2021 energy outlook.
At present, 40 per cent of India’s installed electricity capacity
comes from renewable sources like solar, wind and hydro.
But, according to India’s Ministry of New and Renewable
Energy, only 5.7 gigawatts (GW) of solar rooftop projects
had been set up by last November — a fraction of the 40-GW
rooftop solar target for the end of 2022.
That points to major scope to expand rooftop solar fast.
“(It) will be a consumer utility in 10 or 15 years, just
like a fridge or washing machine,” said Martin Scherfler,
co-founder of Auroville Consulting, who works on power-sector
“Right now, however, it is a very bumpy ride with a lot of
resistance from old power distribution companies, for whom the
consumer was never supposed to be a producer.”