KICS Sharing Session# 35: Solar Powered Feeders: an attractive alternative for agri pumpsets in AP & TS

Facilitators: Sreekumar N, M Thimma Reddy, BN Prabhakar
Date and Time: February 06, 2015 / 04.00 PM – 06.00 PM
Venue: Conference Hall, Centre for World Solidarity (CWS),
12-13-438, Street No.1, Tarnaka, Secunderabad – 500 017

Multi-dimensional crisis in agriculture is a matter of concern for all. Irrigation based on electric pumpsets is one of the dimensions of this crisis. For the last few decades, this area is caught in a downward spiral, with many unhappy actors further aggravating the crisis. Farmers get free electricity in AP and Telangana states, but are not happy with the poor quality of supply and service. Distribution companies are not happy since the tariff is low and connections are dispersed over a large area. State governments bear the high subsidy burden for providing power supply to agriculture. There have been discussions on how to overcome this crisis, mostly on how to address the ‘problems’ of the distribution company. Very few pro-farmer alternatives have been suggested, and there has been little headway in addressing the crisis.

In this session, the speakers present a solar alternative. Solar electricity has become attractive not only because of the fuel, livelihood and climate challenges of conventional electricity, but also because of the falling prices of solar. Government has been promoting solar pumpsets with subsidy support and ambitious targets. It is felt that solar pumpset is a good option only in areas where water is available at very low depth and grid coverage is low. For states like AP and Telangana, solar based agriculture feeder is a better option due to lower cost, easier maintenance and better quality of supply. In this option, an agriculture feeder with around 300-500 pumpsets, will be powered by a mini solar plant of 1-2 MW capacity. This will ensure electricity supply for 7-8 hours in the day time. This feeder will be connected to the grid so that excess power can be sold to the distribution company and back-up power can be purchased if the solar plant fails. Such mini solar plants could be set up by farmer cooperatives, state corporations or private companies.

Sreekumar N is with Prayas (Energy Group), and works on energy policy analysis and advocacy. He is a trustee of KICS and member of the State Advisory Committees of Telangana and Andhra Pradesh State Electricity Regulatory Commissions.

M Thimma Reddy is the convenor of the People’s Monitoring Group on Electricity Regulation (PMGER), Hyderabad. PMGER is a voluntary group, wherein different organizations and individuals have come together to monitor the developments in the power sector in Andhra Pradesh and Telangana on behalf of people.

BN Prabhakar is President of SWAPNAM, an NGO and has a keen interest in developing renewable energy options.

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