The agriculture sector plays a significant role in the Indian economy. It supports 60-70% of the population directly or indirectly. A lot of harvested goods are also exported to other countries, contributing to the total GDP by 17%. This sector also employs over 20% of the Indian population. To promote agriculture, state governments have even heavily subsidised the electricity provided to farmers for their water pumps, since the green revolution in the 60s. One doesn’t think of water pumps when it comes to agriculture, but the total annual energy consumed is more than what tractors would use. This subsidy might sound good to anyone. An annual expenditure nearing about 90,000 crores of the states’ finances, which could be made efficient on the other hand says otherwise. Growing needs for energy may also pose a threat to sustaining such subsidies itself.
One of the few ways this situation could be improved is through education. Those involved in the agricultural sector should be encouraged to take up top energy management courses offered in some business schools. These courses help analyse how energy is used as part of a system and take steps to efficiently improve it. Courses like this could significantly help out the agricultural sector. Not only would this save the state governments their money, but would also make a part of agriculture efficient.
Solving this problem also requires a better understanding of the issue. It comes down to underground water-levels and the inefficient water pumps used to pull that water out. Underground irrigation has played an important role in developing the agricultural sector for decades, as well as helped achieve India’s long-term food security. But without further efficiency in energy use, irrigation can still become problematic in the future. It is understandable to offer subsidies to farmers but using efficient replacements can also reduce this subsidy by a quarter. Doing so will also allow the state governments to help towards improving the sector in other ways.
With the state governments pushing to efficiently use water pumps, those with farming experiences should responsibly know about energy efficiency as well. Those who have experience in the agriculture sector and wish to learn how to implement efficient technology can join one of the best colleges for energy project management course, like the NTPC School of Business. Rather than depending on others this knowledge and understanding taught in such colleges, can boost savings in the long run.
If not anything else, it would at least educate those in this sector why efficiency is required. With around 20 million pump sets connected to the power grid in India, that consumes around 18% of India’s total energy consumption, farmers need to know how it affects them. There has been a rise in using electric pumps, but many farmers still use diesel pumps to power their irrigation. In some ways, this not only contributes to pollution, but rising oil prices also affect the state governments’ annual expenditure. There have been efforts to replace older pumping systems with newer efficient ones. But, with the free electricity being offered, no one has seen any benefits to upgrading.
As part of making the country more energy-efficient, the Ministry of Power even launched a National Energy Efficient Agriculture Pumps Programme. This programme was aimed at helping farmers acquire modern 5-star rated energy-efficient agricultural pumps for free. These pumps not only come with a smart control-panel but add the convenience for farmers to activate these pumps through their phones. The pumps also have smart meters attached so farmers can monitor the consumption in real-time. Such pumps not only save overall energy but also save time for the farmers.
On the other hand, under a scheme like PM-KUSUM, the Ministry of New and Renewable Energy has promoted the use of solar power pumps for meeting the demand in electricity. Using renewable energy to power water pumps has revolutionised the agricultural sector. Under this scheme, small and marginal farmers are being helped out with about 1.7 million solar-powered water pumps.
This scheme will also help generate sufficient energy for the farmers, so they can also sell surplus power to the distribution companies. An existing 1 million agricultural water pumps connected to the grid will also be solarised. To ensure that power distribution companies are not burdened, small power plants of 2 MW capacity each will be installed in rural areas. A solution like this will not only ensure that subsidy costs are reduced but also reduce India’s burden in producing energy towards agriculture.
Over the last few decades, the agriculture sector has benefited a lot. whether through improved techniques or government subsidies. Keeping in mind that it might become impossible to sustain such subsidies, improving energy efficiency has also been a boon to the sector. Where someone might think of efficient use of energy in their houses or workplaces, agriculture rarely comes into anyone’s minds. But when it comes to one of the backbones of this country, it pays well to know how to save more energy, as can be seen now. One can only hope this trend continues onward, and the future of efficient use of energy not only looks brighter for farmers but also for all of India.