Renewable energy: best bet for farm sector
India is primarily an agrarian society with 52 per cent of the population directly engaged in agriculture. Pumping water is critical for India given the seasonal rainfall and competitive usage of scarce land resources. India has more that 26 million installed water pumps – 10 million are run by diesel gensets while the rest are grid-connected. Cost of energy to drive water pumps constitute about 30 per cent of the total input cost for a farmer. Indian farmers are currently drawing more water 212 million mega-litres from the ground each year to irrigate about 35 million hectares.
Diesel-powered pumps still account for bulk of the Indian agricultural pump market primarily because of their low upfront cost translating into an annual market size of $1.2 billion.
Total installed diesel pump capacity in India is estimated to be 30 GW, equivalent to almost 15 per cent of India’s total installed power capacity and an annual diesel subsidy of $6 billion.
Diesel pumps, however, are fraught with social, environmental and economical challenges – high operating cost, carbon emissions, deplete water table more than necessary by pumping heavily at short intervals.