Rooftop solar best way to supply power to urban poor: report

World Resources Institute calls for rooftop solar panelsWorld Resources Institute

Rooftop solar panels are the answer to the power needs of emerging economies, according to a World Resources Institute report.

The report, ‘Powering Cities in the Global South’, says solar panels are the cheapest way to power poorer households.

Furthermore, it found rooftop solar panels are already the most common form of renewable energy in the developing world.

The report found that the ability of people to pay for solar is at the heart of what will work.

Addressing the up-front cost of solar installation

The report says “willingness-to-pay” issues must first be resolved in order to address the up-front costs of solar power. Blended finance, social impact and green bonds are all cited as ways to scale the technology.

Urban poor housing in India could benefit from rooftop solar panels

Solar panels could power homes for the urban poor in countries like India.

However, one of the report’s authors says African consumer finance models show the way to better access. Michael Westphal says consumer finance models such as PayGo show households are becoming capable of paying for renewables.

“You have an exponential decrease in the cost of solar panels, and then this proliferation of these finance models,” he said. “So we think solar panels will become increasingly affordable.”

No grid connection required for solar PV

The report also finds that as the cost for grid electricity rises, the cost for solar falls, making it an appealing option.

One reason is that residential and commercial consumers using solar do not need grid connection.

In India and China, the average cost of electricity for residential rooftop solar is in line with the cost of natural gas-powered generation.

The report also finds utility-scale solar electricity has reached grid parity. Consequently, it is “competitive with retail electricity in a number of markets globally”.

In 12 Indian states, policies enable the retail costs for rooftop solar to reach the same parity for industrial and commercial electricity customers.

The trick is that technological and financial options to install solar panels must develop at the same pace to be viable.