Switchover tough due to expensive pumpsets

Any plan to solve the power shortage problem by replacing the present 32 lakh conventional agriculture pumspets in the State with solar energy-linked pumpsets (SELP) appears to be a tall order under the present circumstances.

Thirty per cent of the electricity supplied by AP Transco in the State (now about 250 million units (mu) daily compared to the overall power demand of 310 mu) will always be claimed by the agriculture pumpsets, except on a few days during a year as found in a survey.

A total substitution of existing pumpsets by SELPs will thus save 75 mu daily. Using this, the demand can be fully met and supply made round the clock even to rural areas, the worst-hit under the power cuts now.

Complete switchover

But, a complete switchover to SELPs, however, seems to be an impossibility because of the prohibitive cost of such pumpsets. Grandiose plans are drawn up by the Government to connect the solar-linked pumpsets to State Grid so that the surplus power available from them when they are not used by farmers, can be transferred to general consumers.

Preliminary assessment

According to a preliminary assessment made by the Government, the replacement will cost Rs 3 lakh for one pumpset.

Huge budget

At this rate, a huge budget of Rs 96,000 crore will be required for a cent per cent coverage.

Even if the purchase of SELP is subsidised by the Centre and the State to the tune of 30 per cent and 20 per cent respectively as is being planned, the farmers may not be in a position to bear the remaining burden--Rs 1.5 lakh each.

Track record

Judging by their track record, the farmers are unlikely to come forward even to bear this, a Transco official said. He was referring to how they turned “indifferent” to repeated orders issued ever since the former Chief Minister, Y.S. Rajasekhara Reddy’s time asking them to install friction-less foot valves, capacitors, plastic pipes, ISI-branded pumps and motors for their pumpsets as part of demand-side management (DSM) measures to reduce agriculture demand.

The AP performance in solar energy area is so poor that it has only 23 MW capacity under solar plants with AP Genco accounting for only one MW out of this.