One of the largest state in India is planning to shift all its electricity consumers in the agricultural sector to shift from thermal power to solar power.
According to media reports, the government of Maharashtra is working on a long-term proposal to shift all agricultural power consumers to solar power. This motive behind this plan is to reduce the subsidy being provided to farmers for electricity supply.
Farmers are being supply electricity at prices about a tenth of what some other consumers in the industrial and domestic sectors. Subsidy being provided to the farmers is around Rs 5,000 crore (US$750 million). This subsidy is recovered from other consumer classes in the form of higher tariff rates. At present, the unrecovered dues stand at Rs 15,000 crore (US$2.25 billion).
Shifting a large consumer base from thermal to solar power will not only result in environmental sustainable electricity production but will also rid the state government and utilities of the huge financial burden they are struggling with.
Some other Indian states have proposed similar measures as subsidy in the agricultural sector has risen significantly over the years. The central government has directed state governments to improve the financial condition of power utilities by reducing subsidies and regularly increasing tariffs.
Among the ideas floated for integration of solar power into the agriculture sector is a proposal that allows farmers to lease out land to project developers who set up small-scale solar power projects. Electricity generated from those projects will be used by the farmers and any surplus electricity would sold to the grid. This will ensure a sustainable power supply and an additional source of income for the farmers especially during the droughts.