Despite Approval from NEPRA, Net Metering Implementation Faces Hurdles

Power distribution companies (Discos) have failed to install net energy metering facility that allows residential and commercial customers to generate their own electricity from solar panels to add additional electricity into the national grid – despite the approval of National Electric Power Regulatory Authority (NEPRA) regulations with respect to this matter in September last year.

This was the consensus among the participants of a roundtable session titled: ‘Net Metering: An Alternate Source of Power for Electricity Consumers’ arranged by the Institute of Policy Studies (IPS). However, experts were optimistic that the required tactical and resourced planning to facilitate this modern approach towards solving the country’s energy crisis would be carried out in a few months.

The participants called for introducing one window solutions for net metering application procedures and also raised questions over some ambiguities in the NEPRA regulations as the net metering technology was already being employed in a number of countries across the world. According to them, Pakistan could simply study and follow their experiences instead of reinventing the wheel.

The session was chaired by Mirza Hamid Hassan, Former Federal Secretary and Chairman of IPS’ Tawanai (energy) program. The seminar was addressed by Mazhar Iqbal Ranjha, Director Standard Department, NEPRA, Wajid Ali Kazmi, Chief Engineer Planning Islamabad Electricity Supply Company (IESCO), Faiz Muhammad Bhutta, Member Energy Committee Pakistan Engineering Council (PEC). The session was attended by a number of energy experts, government officials, and academia and industry representatives.

Outlining the regulations approved by the NEPRA, Ranjha expressed his discontent over the response on the technology by Discos across the country for its implementation.

He said that if subsidies given by the government over fuel prices were rather given on renewable energy technology and devices like solar panels, the energy production of national grid could have alleviated significantly due to redistribution contributions from the net metering consumers.

Kazmi negated the impression and revealed that IESCO has already developed an SOP for net metering and was set to start implementing this technology at the Parliament House as a pilot project with the redistribution capacity of one megawatt through the solar power plant recently installed there.

He admitted that while the implementation of net metering at the government institution was symbolic providing the concept of a much needed boost, there was still a lot of work needed in order to popularize the technology at the household level.

He observed that the response of IESCO was a bit slow because of technical issues like absence of the billing software for the purpose and training of the field staff and officers who were yet to be equipped with the expertise and knowledge pertaining to the technology.

He however claimed that the initial hurdles will be removed as early as possible and IESCO was already taking steps in this regard by conducting capacity building workshops.

Bhutta stressed on earliest implementation of SRO 892(1) 2015 of the NEPRA through which the net metering regulations have been approved. He recommended a few amendments in the SRO including reduction of the service period of 100 days for application processing and declaration of interconnect study charges on different categories of applications.

Hasan summed up the session terming formulation of net metering regulations a good sign while maintaining that the on-ground implementation of these regulations could take some more time.

He also stressed the popularization of renewable resources of energy in the country, especially solar energy, so that the net metering concept of community participation for power generation could be implemented successfully.