News Excerpt
Recently, Finance Minister announced expansion of Pradhan Mantri Kisan Urja Suraksha Utthan Mahabhiyan (PM KUSUM) Scheme under which 20 lakh farmers would be provided funds to set up standalone solar pumps.

Pre-Connect
The farmer focus of Budget 2018 gave a fillip to the farmer-oriented scheme involving decentralised solar power production up to 28,250 MW over a period of five years, known as KUSUM Scheme. The Kisan Urja Suraksha evam Utthaan Mahabhiyan (KUSUM) scheme would provide additional income to farmers, by giving them the option to sell additional power to the grid, through solar power projects set up on their barren lands.

What are the objectives of KUSUM?
The objectives are:
•    Promote decentralised solar power production; reduce transmission losses; support the financial health of Discoms by reducing the burden of subsidy to the agriculture sector;
•    Help States meet the RPOs (renewable purchase obligation) targets; promote energy efficiency and water conservation; provide water security to farmers through provision of assured water sources through solar water pumps — both off-grid and grid connected;
•    Provide reliable power to utilise the irrigation potential created by State irrigation departments; and fill the void in solar power production in the intermediate range between rooftops and large parks.

PM-KUSUM consists of three components and aims to add a solar capacity of 30.8 GW by 2022:
•    Component-A: 10,000 MW of decentralised ground mounted grid connected renewable power plants.
•    Component-B: Installation of two million standalone solar powered agriculture pumps.
•    Component-C: Solarisation of 1.5 million grid-connected solar powered agriculture pumps.

Benefits of Scheme
    The scheme will open a stable and continuous source of income to the rural land owners for a period of 25 years by utilisation of their dry/uncultivable land. Further, in case cultivated fields are chosen for setting up solar power project, the farmers could continue to grow crops as the solar panels are to be set up above a minimum height.
    The scheme would ensure that sufficient local solar/ other renewable energy based power is available for feeding rural load centres and agriculture pump-set loads, which require power mostly during the day time. As these power plants will be located closer to the agriculture loads or to electrical substations in a decentralized manner, it will result in reduced Transmission losses for STUs and Discoms. Moreover, the scheme will also help the Discoms to achieve the RPO target
    The solar pumps will save the expenditure incurred on diesel for running diesel pump and provide the farmers a reliable source of irrigation through solar pump apart from preventing harmful pollution from running diesel pump. In light of the long waiting list for electric grid connection, this scheme will benefit 17.5 lakh farmers over a period of four years, without adding to the grid load.

Concerns
    In the context of 100 per cent electrification of villages under DeenDayal Upadhyaya Gram Jyoti Yojana (DDUGJY) the government’s push for solar off-grid pumps seems unnecessary.
    The document mentions the inability of distribution companies (Discoms) in energising 10 million diesel pumps through grid connection given the long waiting lists for electricity connections.
    Under Saubhagya (Pradhan Mantri Sahaj Bijli Har Ghar Yojana), the government has electrified more than 20 million households in almost a year.
    The discoms should be able to electrify 10 million diesel pumps in a short time as the grid has already reached the hinterlands.
    Component C of PM-KUSUM will require metering which seems to be a humungous task as the agricultural sector largely relies on un-metered connections. Net-metering is yet a big challenge even in urban areas.
    Hardly any on-grid pump beneficiary has received any payment from discoms for generating excess power and supplying it to the grid, according to a survey by New Delhi-based non-profit Centre for Science and Environment.
    It raises a serious question on the discoms’ ability to pay to millions of additional prosumers (on-grid pump beneficiaries who are both producers and consumers of solar power) for the next 25 to 28 years.

Way forward
    Standalone solar pumps are used only for 100-150 days in a year and solar energy generated during the balance period is not utilised. In order to make effective use of solar energy it was proposed to introduce Universal Solar Pump Controller, which will not only run the water pump but can also run other electric equipment like cold storage, battery charging, flour mill, etc.
    As regards what happens to similar schemes run by some States, the Centre has left it to the States to decide. This, critics feel, will be one of the reasons for the scheme not taking off as desired. Besides, there are too many layers to deal with — at the Centre as well as States. Any reform in India’s power space cannot take place unless there is consensus between the Centre, States and stakeholders.