Agriculture consumes a third of electricity produced: KERC chief

'6.5 bn units can be saved by discarding inefficient pump sets'

Agriculture consumes a third of electricity produced: KERC chief

Agriculture consumes as much as one-third of energy across the country and at least 33 per cent in Karnataka. In 2012-13, 17,000 million units (mu) out of 57,000 mu across Escoms in the State were delivered to agriculture pump sets. 

The actual energy pumped into the grid was 20 per cent more than this, Karnataka Electricity Regulatory Commission (KERC) Chairman M R Sreenivasa Murthy said at a symposium on ‘Agriculture Demand Side Management, Challenges and Benefits’ here on Monday. Pointing out that agriculture was an energy-intensive occupation contrary to popular perception, he stressed the importance of conserving energy in agriculture. 

Giving a picture of energy consumption in agriculture in the State, Murthy said: “We are mining water as ground water is depleting. How long will the water last? The demand for energy has gone up considerably in the last six years and is likely to go up further. The cost of procuring power is also increasing every year. It would be important to take measures for efficiency of electricity used in agriculture.” 

Last year, the State government gave a subsidy of Rs 52,000 crore towards electricity for agriculture. In order to achieve accountability and sustainability, Murthy said, it would be necessary to measure the electricity given to farmers. This way, both the government and farmers would benefit. Among other measures to regulate electricity, it was important to regulate pump sets too, he added. 

Of the two million pump sets in Karnataka, many have not been legalised by Escoms yet. “But electricity is being drawn. We have to adopt a method to ensure economy of utilisation. Subsidy has to come with accountability. At the same time, farmers should not be deprived,” Murthy said. 

Milind Deore, Energy Economist, Bureau of Energy Efficiency (BEE), spoke about challenges in regulating the pump sets. “Five lakh pump sets are added every year, mostly from the unorganised sector. The manufacture of inefficient pump sets should be banned,” he said. 

Still, there are hurdles in implementing these regulations. While discoms’ are unable to maintain power quality in agriculture feeders, there is no awareness among farmers. The BEE was willing to provide financial assistance to farmers, Deore said, urging the government to use the facility and ensure regulatory mechanisms. 

Uma Rajaratnam, head of Clean Energy and Environment Practice at Enzen Global Solutions — a consulting and services company in the energy and utilities market — said that in Karnataka, about 6.5 billion units of power could be saved per annum by replacing energy inefficient pump sets. 

In a case study, the company found that at least 30 per cent of energy could be saved in the Bescom area and up to 37 per cent in Hescom. It is part of the Energy Efficiency Service Ltd (EESL) project for sustainable energy in agriculture. 

The EESL will shortly replace inefficient pump sets in CESC and Bescom jurisdiction. Currently, the project is being implemented in Nippani and Byadgi circles of Hescom. 

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