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Government revises solar pumps costs before installing 17.5 lakh units

FE Bureau

The ministry of new and renewable energy (MNRE) has revised the benchmark costs of solar pumps for FY20. The latest bench-marking comes at a time when the government is preparing to install 17.5 lakh stand-alone solar pumps and connect 10 lakh existing agriculture pumps with solar power through the recently approved Pradhan Mantri Kisan Urja Suraksha evam Utthan Mahabhiyan (PM KUSUM) scheme.

Since all component purchased through the scheme will have to be manufactured domestically, it opens up a potential market of over 8,000 MW for domestic solar panels makers who are currently struggling to sustain themselves against cheaper imported products flooding the market. The MNRE has sub-divided the costs of the solar pumps into seven categories according to load bearing capacities ranging from 0.5 horse power (HP) to 10 HP. Each load category is further split into the different varieties of solar pumps, specifying separate costs for surface and submersible types. The solar pump price list for FY19 notified by MNRE had only four broad segments.

The solarisation cost of existing agricultural pumps has been set at Rs 54 per watt for systems upto 10 kilo-watt capacity. The PM KUSUM scheme -which also wants to set up 10,000 MW of grid connected solar power plants in barren lands owned by farmers -which would receive central financial support of Rs 34,422 crore. Farmers would receive 30% subsidy from the central government and 30% by the state for buying stand-alone solar pumps and solarising the existing ones. The remaining 40% capital would have to be arranged by the farmer.

Over 2 crore agriculture water pumps currently comprise more than 17% of annual electricity consumption of the country. Cash-strapped discoms supply this power at subsidised rates to the farmers and state governments often delay the subsidy payments, adding to their financial woes. Solarisation of these pumps is also seen to reducing discoms’ subsidy burden. It would also provide additional source of income to farmers who can sell surplus power to the discoms.