Today in Delhi we are celebrating something big! Usually in May and June Delhiites complain of scorching heat and how we are cursed with bad weather, water shortages and power blackouts. The same is true for other big crowded metro cities. But now we have something different, something that puts Delhi a step forward in sustainable living. We can now use the capital’s spacious rooftops to harvest solar power, whether we own a rooftop or not!
What’s so special about this celebration? After years of patience and persistence, Delhi’s solar policy has finally arrived. It all started back in April 2013 when an enthusiastic group of Greenpeace India volunteers worked through the sweltering Delhi heat, organising renewable energy fairs and talking to people about solar power. The Switch on the Sun campaign was born — and it was unstoppable.
In June that year, on World Environment Day, people from all walks of life joined a Bike-a-thon to show why we need to switch to solar power rather than polluting fossil fuels and how Delhi can take a lead in the energy revolution.
Data was crucial to make the case, and that’s where our reports on Delhi’s rooftop solar potential came in. But we needed more than data: we needed a clear demand from the people, for the people. And the conditions were ripe. The city was already reeling under extreme temperatures. We were heading for another summer of peak electricity demand, guzzling not only our share of energy, but sucking it up from neighbouring states as well. Something had to shift.
But it was not so simple and it certainly wasn’t quick. After a hectic summer, the capital went through two state elections. All the while, the community of solar activists grew. In 2015, when Greenpeace India faced a government crackdown, we continued with the solar movement. With renewed zeal and determination, we kickstarted the solar streetlights campaign for Delhi. We lobbied politicians (Delhi Dialogue Commission), regulatory authorities and many more who have a stake in Delhi’s energy future. We spent months eagerly waiting for an announcement. Finally, on 6th June 2016, the Delhi government released the capital’s first solar policy. This breakthrough was possible thanks to you, the volunteers and supporters who endorsed, sustained and spearheaded the movement.
Delhi’s solar policy will help the people of Delhi to actually install panels, generate their own power and, if they produce more power than they need, sell it back to the utility companies. If someone does not own a rooftop to install panels, the policy allows a collective to own a set of solar panels. Essentially, a set of friends can invest in solar panels produce solar power.
Today we celebrated this people-powered win with the Chief Minister of Delhi, Arvind Kejriwal. Delhi has taken a step towards a sustainable energy future, a direction that can make our city the clean and green Delhi we want to see. It’s a huge step for each and everyone of you who supported, signed, shared and made this day happen. Thank you.
Ruhie Kumar is a communications campaigner at Greenpeace India.
Madhulika Varma is a media specialist at Greenpeace India.