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REVITALISING PM-KUSUM SCHEME

SYLLABUS: GS MAINS PAPER 3

Recently the Union Minister of Power, New and Renewable energy reviewed the progress of the PM-KUSUM (Kisan Urja Suraksha evam Utthaan Mahabhiyan) scheme and reaffirmed the government’s commitment to accelerating solar pump adoption.

BACKGROUND

● PM-KUSUM launched in 2019 by the Ministry of New and Renewable Energy (MNRE).

● It is a scheme for farmers’ for installation of solar pumps and grid connected solar and other renewable plants.

● It aims to help farmers access reliable day-time solar power for irrigation, reduce power subsidies, and decarbonize agriculture.

Components

1. Component A: For setting up of 10,000 MW of decentralized grid connected renewable energy power plants on barren land.

2. Component B: For installation of 17.50 lakh stand alone solar agriculture pumps.

3. Component C: For solarisation of 10 lakh grid connected agriculture pumps.

HIGHLIGHTS

 ● PM-KUSUM provides farmers with incentives to install solar power pumps and plants in their field.

● Farmers’ can use one of three deployment models; Off-grid solar pumps, grid connected pumps or solarised agricultural feeders.

● 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.

SIGNIFICANCE

● The scheme will open a stable and continuous source of income to the rural land owners by utilisation of their uncultivable/dry land.

● The solar pumps will save the expenditure incurred on diesel for running diesel pumps.

CHALLENGES

● Limited awareness about solar pumps and farmers’ inability to pay their upfront contribution. Many farmers struggle to pay 30-40% of upfront costs in compliance with scheme requirements.

● Progress on the models solarized agricultural feeders and grid connected pumps has been poor due to regulatory, financial, operational and technical challenges.

Only a handful of states have initiated tenders or commissioned projects for solar feeders or grid connected pumps.

● COVID induced disruptions.

HOW TO TACKLE THE CHALLENGES OF THE SCHEME?

● Extend the scheme’s timeline- Most Indian discoms have a surplus of contracted generation capacity and are wary of procuring more power in the short term.

Extending PM-KUSUM scheme timelines beyond 2022 would allow discoms to align the scheme with their power purchasing plan.

● Create a level playing field for distributed solar plants- selling surplus powers to discoms is the main attractions of grid-connected models.

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

To tackle the bias against distributed solar, there is need to address counter-party risks and grid-unavailability risks at distribution substations, standardise tariff determination to reflect the higher costs of distributed power plants and do away with waiver of ISTS charges for solar plants.

● Streamline land regulations through inter departmental coordination- It will help reduce delays in leasing or converting agricultural lands for non-agricultural purposes such as solar power generation.

● Financing farmers’ contribution- we need to support innovative solutions for financing farmers’ contributions. To ease the financial burden on farmers’ we need out-of-the-box solution.

For instance, Karnataka’s pilot of a farmer-developer special purpose vehicle to help farmers install solar power plants on their farms.

● Grid connected solar pumps- The grid connected model required pumps to be metered and billed for accounting purposes but suffers from a lack of trust between discoms and farmers.

Adopting solutions like smart transformers and smart meters and engaging with farmers can build trust and address some operational challenges.

CONCLUSION

The above mentioned measures, if implemented successfully, can generate thousands of jobs, reduce the carbon footprint of agriculture, and result in oil import savings. There should be consensus between the centre, states and stakeholders. Consensus between centre and states is the key to the success of this decentralised solar power scheme.

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