Topic : KUSUM scheme
Topic in Syllabus: General Studies Paper 2: Schemes & Programs
The Ministry of New and Renewable Energy (MNRE) recently rolled out a massive solar-pump programme called the PM-KUSUM scheme.Here is an overview of the implications of the scheme and the necessary changes to be made.
The World Bank predicts that around 60% of the aquifers in India will be in a critical state by 2032 if we do not change the current practice of overexploitation of groundwater for irrigation. Large-scale deployment of solar pumps, without a comprehensive plan to monitor and control water usage, is likely to make this prediction a reality.
What is the scheme about?
The Pradhan Mantri Kisan Urja Suraksha evam Utthaan Mahabhiyan (PM-KUSUM) scheme has a target to set up 25,750 megawatts (MW) solar capacity by 2022 to power irrigation pumps.
The approved scheme comprises of three components:
- setting up of 10,000 MW of decentralised ground / stilt-mounted grid-connected solar or other renewable energy based power plants
- installation of 17.5 lakh standalone solar agriculture pumps
- solarisation of 10 lakh grid-connected solar agriculture pumps
It comes with central financial support of close to Rs 34,000 crore.
What will be the incremental change?
- 25,750 MW solar capacity can power about 11.5 million 3 HP (horsepower) pumps or 7 million 5 HP pumps.
- [At present, nearly 30 million irrigation pumps are estimated to be operating in India.
- Of this, 21 million are electric and 9 million are diesel-based.]
- The KUSUM scheme can potentially convert one-third to one-fourth of all irrigation pumps into solar-powered pumps in a short period of 3 years.
- This rapid transition is possible as the scheme makes buying pumps extremely affordable for medium-sized and large farmers.
- It comes with 30% subsidy from the central and state government each, and there is a provision to take bank loans for 30% of the cost.
- So, farmers have to shell out only 10% of the cost to buy solar pumps.
- It increases farmers’ income in the short term.
- As solar power is cheaper than diesel, in states like Bihar, where farmers largely use diesel pumps, off-grid solar pumps will reduce the cost of irrigation significantly.
- This will allow farmers to grow more crops, even the water-intensive ones, at a lower cost of cultivation, thereby increasing income.
- In Punjab, where electric pumps dominate and the power subsidy to the agricultural sector is about `7000 crore annually, solarisation of agriculture feeders will reduce the subsidy burden significantly.
- Farmers’ income will also be augmented by selling electricity from solar plants on to the discoms.
- The most important part of the solar pump is that the solar cycle matches the irrigation cycle.
- Farmers will get assured irrigation for at least six hours during day time, and they don’t have to remain awake at night to irrigate their farms (grid supply is more assured at night in most states).
- Over exploitation of groundwater: a high possibility of overuse of these pumps, leading to groundwater depletion.
- The KUSUM scheme fails to promote efficient irrigation and incorporate explicit and strict measures against groundwater exploitation.
- The scheme only mentions exploring the possibility of its convergence with state-level schemes for promoting the micro-irrigation systems and energy-efficient pumps instead of mandating the same
- In the case of solarisation of agriculture feeders, the implications can be even more disastrous. Currently, states like Punjab and Haryana bear a huge burden of agriculture power subsidy.
- With solar power predicted to be at least 30% cheaper, the subsidy burden is likely to reduce significantly.
- This means that the state governments have even less incentive to increase agriculture tariff to conserve water when the grid is solarised. Thus, the gross overexploitation of groundwater is likely to continue.
Improvements to be made:
- The central government could push massive irrigation reforms in states through the KUSUM scheme.
- It should only be extended to states willing to take strong measures to improve irrigation efficiency and control exploitation of groundwater.
- Secondly, it must mandate micro-irrigation for solar pump beneficiaries.
- Groundwater extraction must be closely monitored and strict mandates on pump size and bore-well depth must be set.
- Supporting low water-intensive crops in water-scare regions, too, is crucial.
- Deployment of off-grid solar pumps must be restricted to areas where the grid has not reached and groundwater is abundant.
- Even in groundwater-abundant areas, off-grid solar pumps must be used for rural electrification.
- Otherwise, it should be developed into community-based water sale models to maximise utilisation and reduce water wastage.
- Solarisation of rural feeders should be accompanied by a gradual increase in electricity tariffs.
- This is crucial to control groundwater exploitation and reduce the burden of agricultural subsidy.
Renewable energy is clean energy, but it doesn’t always lead to green solutions. For clean energy to become green, solutions must be comprehensively designed in an integrated manner.
Discuss the challenges in implementing KUSUM scheme and suggest the measures for the same. (150 words)