Energy minister D K Shivakumar on Tuesday said the government would be taking a second look at the subsidised power scheme meant for farmers in the State.
Responding to a series of questions posed at the Legislative Council on free power being given to farmers for irrigation pump sets, Shivakumar said the government is diverting no less than 39 per cent power produced in the State towards farmers every year.
“We have to sit and analyse how much of this power, being given to farmers, is indeed reaching those who require them the most. Gone are the days when farmers could not afford to pay the bills. These days, free power is going to those who own two-wheelers and travel in cars. Further, we have to also see how much this is hurting the government if it is to continue the scheme,” he told the House. The annual power subsidy burden on the State government now touches a whopping Rs 7,400 crore.
Shivakumar said neighbouring states like Tamil Nadu, Gujarat and Maharashtra have already discontinued the free power supply scheme to farmers. The minister said the department is trying to popularise solar energy as an alternative to conventional power. “But even these success stories are hard to find,” he said.
Shivakumar said the government had initially planned to generate 500 MW of solar energy, but few schemes appear to have taken off. He said the government has already awarded tenders to four companies to generate 80 MW of solar power every year, but there has been no progress from the private firms.
Shivakumar said the government had given bank guarantee for these companies, which it is likely to recover from them along with penalties. The only company which has started to generate solar power in the State is the Karnataka Power Corporation Limited, but it is only 19 MW. The minister said the government is now considering inviting only serious solar energy players to set up shop in the State.