PM-KUSUM will shine when implemented fully

Richa Mishra | Updated on December 12, 2020

KUSUM (Kisan Urja Suraksha evam Utthaan Mahaabhiyan), the Centre’s solar pump distribution scheme, was first announced in the Union Budget 2018-2019. Representative image   -  The Hindu

Consensus between the Centre and States is the key to the success of this decentralised solar power scheme

“The farmer focus of Budget 2018 has given 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,” RK Singh, Minister of State (Independent Charge) for Power and New and Renewable Energy, had tweeted then.

After the Budget, Singh said Cabinet approval for KUSUM will be accorded within 20 days, that is, in March 2018. But he would have least expected then that it would take almost a year to get the approval; the scheme was proposed in Arun Jaitley’s 2018-19 Budget, but got Cabinet nod only in February 2019. The reason for delay was the Power Ministry was not being able to convince the Finance Ministry for the desired fund allocations. And, today, we are still talking about incentivising PM-KUSUM. A scheme which could have addressed a vast vote bank is still having teething problems. Wonder why? And as critics say, will it end up as yet another beautiful name?

Nirmala Sitharaman’s Budget for 2020-21 expanded the scope for the scheme — with 20 lakh farmers to be provided assistance to install standalone solar pumps; another 15 lakh farmers to be given help to solarise their grid-connected pumpsets; and enabling farmers to set up solar power generation capacity on their fallow/barren lands and to sell it to the grid.

While all this was happening, it also generated a serious debate on depleting water tables. As an environmentalist said, anything that is available free of cost, has its disadvantages.

What are the objectives of KUSUM? And what happens when there are similar schemes already existing in States?

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.

Sounds brilliant, but success lies in implementation.

What about environmental challenges? “If farmers are able to sell surplus powers, they will be incentivised to save power and, in turn, it will mean reasonable and efficient use of groundwater,” is the government response.

Too many twists and turns to the tale, one would say. But this definitely doesn’t take away the good intention of Singh and his team.

PM-KISAN 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.

The total central financial support provided under the scheme would be ₹34,000 crore.

On its part, the Centre has been refining the scheme after consultations with States and other stakeholders. Recently, it came out with guidelines for implementation of feeder-level solarisation.

The eligibility for participation in the centralised tender has also been amended to allow a joint venture of manufacturer of solar pump, panel, and solar pump controller with integrators to bid. This again was based on experience in earlier bid, which brought out the fact that manufacturers lack workforce in the field and are dependent on local integrators for this purpose, which has caused delay in installation of solar pumps. 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.

According to the Ministry, India has 30 million agriculture pumps, of which, 22 million are electric and eight million are diesel operated. Electricity for agriculture is highly subsidised and is often termed as the main cause for rapid groundwater depletion and poor financial position of DISCOMs. Annual electricity consumption for agriculture is around 200 billion units, which is 18 per cent of total electricity consumption.

Covid-19 did slow the progress during first half of 2020-21, but now its on track again.

This makes one wonder, if everything is so good about the scheme, why is it a slow starter. 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. Till then, it will be like half-baked cake.

Published on December 11, 2020

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