PM-KUSUM - Daily Current Affair Article

CONTEXT:

The Union Minister of Power, New and Renewable Energy recently reviewed the progress of the PM-­KUSUM scheme and reaffirmed the government’s commitment to accelerating solar pump adoption. Launched in 2019, PM-­KUSUM aims to help farmers access reliable daytime solar power for irrigation, reduce power subsidies, and decarbonise agriculture.

About PM-KUSUM

  • PM-KUSUM (Pradhan Mantri Kisan Urja Suraksha evam Utthaan Mahabhiyan) Scheme is aimed at ensuring energy security for farmers in India, along with honouring India’s commitment to increase the share of installed capacity of electric power from non-fossil-fuel sources to 40% by 2030 as part of Intended Nationally Determined Contributions (INDCs).
  • Launched by Ministry of New and Renewable Energy (MNRE)
  • The PM-KUSUM Scheme was launched in 2019 with 3 components:
  • Component-A: For Setting up of 10,000 MW of Decentralized Grid Connected Renewable Energy Power Plants on barren land. Under this component, renewable energy based power plants (REPP) of capacity 500 kW to 2 MW will be setup by individual farmers/ group of farmers/ cooperatives/ panchayats/ Farmer Producer Organisations (FPO)/Water User associations (WUA) on barren/fallow land. These power plants can also be installed on cultivable land on stilts where crops can also be grown below the solar panels. The renewable energy power project will be installed within five km radius of the sub-stations in order to avoid high cost of sub-transmission lines and to reduce transmission losses. The power generated will be purchased by local DISCOM at pre-fixed tariff
  • Component-B: For Installation of 17.50 Lakh stand-alone solar agriculture pumps. Under this Component, individual farmers will be supported to install standalone solar Agriculture pumps of capacity up to 7.5 HP for replacement of existing diesel Agriculture pumps / irrigation systems in off-grid areas, where grid supply is not available. Pumps of capacity higher than 7.5 HP can also be installed, however, the financial support will be limited to 7.5 HP capacity
  • Component-C: For Solarisation of 10 Lakh Grid Connected Agriculture Pumps. Under this Component, individual farmers having grid connected agriculture pump will be supported to solarise pumps. The farmer will be able to use the generated solar power to meet the irrigation needs and the excess solar power will be sold to DISCOMs at pre-fixed tariff.
  • State Nodal Agencies (SNAs) of MNRE will coordinate with States/UTs, Discoms and farmers for implementation of the scheme.
  • Benefits of the Scheme
  • Helping Discoms:
  • The highly subsidised electricity for agriculture is often termed as the main cause for rapid groundwater depletion and poor financial position of Discoms.
  • This scheme, hence, will support the financial health of Discoms by reducing the burden of subsidy to the agriculture sector.
  • Helping States:
  • Promotion of decentralised solar power production, and reduce transmission losses.
  • For state governments, this is a potential way to reduce their subsidy outlay towards irrigation.
  • Apart from it, the scheme will help States meet the RPOs (renewable purchase obligation) targets.
  • Helping Farmers:
  • If farmers are able to sell surplus power production with them, and will be incentivised to save power and, in turn, it will mean the reasonable and efficient use of groundwater.
  • This may also provide water security to farmers through the provision of assured water sources through solar water pumps — both off-grid and grid-connected.
  • Helping Environment:
  • Expansion of the irrigation cover by providing decentralized solar-based irrigation and moving away from polluting diesel.
  • This should also fill the void in solar power production in the intermediate range between rooftops and large parks.
  • Focus on Solar Energy
  • PM­KUSUM provides farmers with incentives to install solar power pumps and plants in their fields. They can use one of three deployment models: off-grid solar pumps, solarised agricultural feeders, or grid­-connected pumps. Off-grid pumps have been the most popular, but the nearly 2,80,000 systems deployed fall far short of the scheme’s target of two million by 2022. Barriers to adoption include limited awareness about solar pumps and farmers’ inability to pay their upfront contribution.
  • Associated Concerns
  • The major concern is regarding the availability of equipment in the domestic market. While pumps are not a challenge for domestic suppliers, the availability of solar pumps is still an issue.
  • Further, due to the strict DCR (Domestic Content Requirements), the suppliers of solar equipment have to raise the domestic cell sourcing. However, there isn’t enough domestic cell manufacturing capacity.
  • The scheme omitted small and marginal farmers, as the scheme focuses on pumps of 3 HP and higher capacities.
  • It is due to this, solar pumps are not reaching the majority of farmers, as nearly 85% of them are small & marginal.
  • Also, the reality of low water tables, especially in North India and parts of South India, which make small-sized pumps limiting for the farmer.

Way Forward

  • Mutual understanding between the Centre and States and stakeholders is the key to the success of this decentralised solar power scheme.
  • Sustainable Farming: Apart from switching to solar power, farmers should also switch over to drip irrigation mode which saves water and power with increased crop output.
  • The scheme can be made more attractive in terms of benchmark prices in view of the challenges on account of higher costs of implementation and comprehensive maintenance.

Needed 5 steps

The scheme's timelines needs to be extended. Extending PM­-KUSUM’s timelines beyond 2022 would allow discoms to align the scheme with their power purchase planning.

Discoms often find utility­-scale solar cheaper than distributed solar (under the scheme) due to the latter’s higher costs and the loss of locational advantage due to waived inter­State transmission system (ISTS) charges.

  • Thus, there's a need to address counter­party risks and grid unavailability risks at distribution substations, standardise tariff determination to reflect the higher costs of distributed power plants, and do away with the waiver of ISTS charges for solar plants.
  • Streamline land regulations through inter­-departmental coordination which will help reduce delays in leasing or converting agricultural lands for non­agricultural purposes such as solar power generation.
  • Support innovative solutions for financing farmers’ contributions. We need out­-of­-the-­box solutions like Karnataka’s pilot of a farmer-­developer special­ purpose vehicle to help farmers install solar power plants on their farms.
  • Extensively pilot grid-­connected solar pumps. Adopting solutions like smart meters and smart transformers and engaging with farmers can build trust.

Sources

  • The Hindu
  • India.gov
General Studies Paper 3
  • Energy