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India wants to hook its population onto clean energy by boosting rooftop solar

Workers of Solar Square place a panel on the rooftop of a residence in Gurugram on the outskirts of New Delhi, India, Tuesday, Feb. 20, 2024. India is renewing its push to add rooftop solar to meet the needs of a fast-growing nation that's hungry for energy. (AP Photo/Manish Swarup)

Workers of Solar Square place a panel on the rooftop of a residence in Gurugram on the outskirts of New Delhi, India, Tuesday, Feb. 20, 2024. (AP Photo/Manish Swarup)

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BENGALURU, India (AP) 鈥 Just a few years ago, someone who wanted to install a rooftop solar connection in India faced getting multiple approvals, finding a reliable company to install the panels and spending heavily before seeing the first surge of clean energy.

But that鈥檚 changing. The government has streamlined the approvals process, made it easier for people to claim subsidies and pushed mountains of cash 鈥 including $9 billion announced this month 鈥 to encourage faster adoption of technology that鈥檚 seen as critical for India to reach its clean-energy goals.

鈥淲e had to get 45 signatures to set up a small rooftop solar connection in 2021,鈥 said Shreya Mishra, CEO of Mumbai-based Solar Square, one of India鈥檚 largest rooftop solar companies. 鈥淭oday it鈥檚 almost instantaneous.鈥

Workers of Solar Square put up a panel on the rooftop of a residence in Gurugram on the outskirts of New Delhi, India, Tuesday, Feb. 20, 2024. India is renewing its push to add rooftop solar to meet the needs of a fast-growing nation that's hungry for energy. (AP Photo/Manish Swarup)

Workers of Solar Square put up a panel on the rooftop of a residence in Gurugram on the outskirts of New Delhi, India, Tuesday, Feb. 20, 2024. (AP Photo/Manish Swarup)

For this sun-soaked country, growth in rooftop solar can鈥檛 come soon enough. India last year became the world鈥檚 most populous nation, with 1.4 billion people and a

Yet India, one of the world鈥檚 biggest emitters of planet-warming gases, is also highly vulnerable to climate change. Its people are affected by deadly floods, extreme rainfall, extreme heat, prolonged droughts and cyclones with increasing frequency. A earlier this year found that nine out of India鈥檚 28 states will be among the world鈥檚 hardest-hit regions due to climate change by midcentury.

India has grown its clean power rapidly in recent years and has the fourth-most installed renewable power, trailing only China, the U.S. and Brazil. It had 180 gigawatts as of December, enough to power about 18 million homes, with nearly half from solar.

But most of that solar power comes from numerous football-field-sized solar farms. Less than 15% comes from rooftop arrays, and India has so far managed to set up only 11 gigawatts of rooftop solar. That鈥檚 far less than the 40 gigawatts it hoped to have by 2022.

Workers of Solar Square carry a panel on the rooftop of a residence in Gurugram on the outskirts of New Delhi, India, Tuesday, Feb. 20, 2024. India is renewing its push to add rooftop solar to meet the needs of a fast-growing nation that's hungry for energy. (AP Photo/Manish Swarup)

Workers of Solar Square carry a panel on the rooftop of a residence in Gurugram on the outskirts of New Delhi, India, Tuesday, Feb. 20, 2024. (AP Photo/Manish Swarup)

Children along with their father look at the newly installed solar panels on the roof of their house in Gurugram on the outskirts of New Delhi, India, Tuesday, Feb. 20, 2024. India is renewing its push to add rooftop solar to meet the needs of a fast-growing nation that's hungry for energy. (AP Photo/Manish Swarup)

Children along with their father look at the newly installed solar panels on the roof of their house in Gurugram on the outskirts of New Delhi, India, Tuesday, Feb. 20, 2024. (AP Photo/Manish Swarup)

Energy experts say rooftop solar is essential to bring power to remote areas, where it can be installed cheaply where it鈥檚 needed and avoid the cost of transmitting the energy over long distances.

India鈥檚 latest push was announced by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who said the $9 billion would provide 鈥渇ree electricity鈥 for up to 10 million homes.

Neeraj Kuldeep of the New Delhi-based think tank, Council on Energy, Environment and Water, has tracked rooftop solar for nearly a decade. found that only 50% of Indians are likely aware of rooftop solar as an energy solution and most of those who were aware thought it was too expensive. The report released last November recommended subsidies for consumers who can benefit from small rooftop solar arrays but can鈥檛 afford them.

Kuldeep said consumer awareness about rooftop solar is one key to driving growth. Others are efficient governments at both the federal and state level, and finding the right 鈥渇it鈥 for a particular user鈥檚 power needs.

Workers of Solar Square work on the cables for connecting the rooftop solar panels through a meter at a residence in Gurugram on the outskirts of New Delhi, India, Tuesday, Feb. 20, 2024. India is renewing its push to add rooftop solar to meet the needs of a fast-growing nation that's hungry for energy. (AP Photo/Manish Swarup)

Workers of Solar Square work on the cables for connecting the rooftop solar panels through a meter at a residence in Gurugram on the outskirts of New Delhi, India, Tuesday, Feb. 20, 2024. (AP Photo/Manish Swarup)

Experts say another is getting buy-in from state-owned electricity companies who sometimes see rooftop solar as a threat to their profits.

Kuldeep said that鈥檚 short-sighted. The companies can often actually make more money if they help install rooftop solar in a low-consumption home, he said. That鈥檚 because they cut their transmission and distribution costs to carry power to a house with a subsidized bill that already earns them little profit.

Installations have also risen since the government launched a national rooftop solar portal in 2022 that consumers can use to claim and steer government subsidies directly to their bank account, say experts and rooftop solar companies.

Mysun, a rooftop solar company based in New Delhi, offers potential buyers a 鈥渟olar calculator鈥 on its website where they can enter their location and current electricity costs to see what kind of savings they could expect. CEO Gagan Vermani said it鈥檚 about simplifying the process for potential customers.

鈥淲e need to start thinking of (rooftop solar) with consumer needs in mind rather than thinking of it as building solar infrastructure,鈥 he said.

A worker of Solar Square joins a cable after putting up solar panels on the rooftop of a residence in Gurugram on the outskirts of New Delhi, India, Tuesday, Feb. 20, 2024. India is renewing its push to add rooftop solar to meet the needs of a fast-growing nation that's hungry for energy. (AP Photo/Manish Swarup)

A worker of Solar Square joins a cable after putting up solar panels on the rooftop of a residence in Gurugram on the outskirts of New Delhi, India, Tuesday, Feb. 20, 2024. (AP Photo/Manish Swarup)

Workers of Solar Square put up a panel on the rooftop of a residence in Gurugram on the outskirts of New Delhi, India, Tuesday, Feb. 20, 2024. India is renewing its push to add rooftop solar to meet the needs of a fast-growing nation that's hungry for energy. (AP Photo/Manish Swarup)

Workers of Solar Square put up a panel on the rooftop of a residence in Gurugram on the outskirts of New Delhi, India, Tuesday, Feb. 20, 2024. (AP Photo/Manish Swarup)

Those who are already hooked up with panels on their roofs tout the benefits of cheaper electricity and greater agency over their own power.

鈥淚t is a little expensive but it鈥檚 totally worth it,鈥 said Ruchika Chahana, who lives in the affluent Greater Kailash neighborhood in New Delhi. Chahana installed rooftop solar in her home nine months ago at a cost of nearly $5,000. She said her summer electricity bills have fallen to about $50 a month, from $200, and her family feels great about 鈥渄oing something to save the planet.鈥

A worker of Solar Square is reflected in a panel filled with rain as he erects the pillars for placing solar panels on the rooftop of a residence in Gurugram on the outskirts of New Delhi, India, Tuesday, Feb. 20, 2024. India is renewing its push to add rooftop solar to meet the needs of a fast-growing nation that's hungry for energy. (AP Photo/Manish Swarup)

A worker of Solar Square is reflected in a panel filled with rain as he erects the pillars for placing solar panels on the rooftop of a residence in Gurugram on the outskirts of New Delhi, India, Tuesday, Feb. 20, 2024. (AP Photo/Manish Swarup)

In Bengaluru, Satish Mallya saw rooftop solar as essential both to save money and avert carbon emissions. He took the lead in installing 65 kilowatts of solar atop the 120-unit apartment complex he lives in, and the building鈥檚 electricity costs have dropped $700 a month.

That 2020 installation was 鈥渃hallenging鈥 because of bureaucratic hurdles, said Mallya, who serves as vice president of a citywide group that represents apartment dwellers and owners. He鈥檚 helped many others set up their own rooftop solar connections in the years since, and says the process has gotten easier.

A construction laborer works nearby where employees of Solar Square are putting panels on the rooftop of a residence in Gurugram on the outskirts of New Delhi, India, Tuesday, Feb. 20, 2024. India is renewing its push to add rooftop solar to meet the needs of a fast-growing nation that's hungry for energy. (AP Photo/Manish Swarup)

A construction laborer works nearby where employees of Solar Square are putting panels on the rooftop of a residence in Gurugram on the outskirts of New Delhi, India, Tuesday, Feb. 20, 2024. (AP Photo/Manish Swarup)

Mishra, of Solar Square, said she鈥檚 seeing a big increase in interest in a technology that she calls 鈥渁 key part of India鈥檚 energy future.鈥

鈥淎s an Indian and an entrepreneur, I鈥檓 extremely proud of seeing this getting built up,鈥 she said. 鈥淚 think building energy infrastructure is the greatest nation-building thing we can do.鈥

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老澳门六合彩鈥 climate and environmental coverage receives financial support from multiple private foundations. AP is solely responsible for all content. Find AP鈥檚 for working with philanthropies, a list of supporters and funded coverage areas at .

Sibi reports on climate change from India and South Asia