The Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs, on February 19, 2019, approved Rs 46,000 crores for the rural solar scheme KUSUM and rooftop solar schemes, to promote adoption of solar power among farmers and the residential sector. While the KUSUM scheme for farmers has been allocated Rs 34,422 crores, the rooftop solar programme would get Rs 11,814 crores. Experts said that the allocation of funds to the KUSUM scheme, will now enable farmers to become exporters of clean solar energy from importers of subsidised energy.
Terming the scheme KUSUM (Kisan Urja Surksha Utthan Mahaabhiyan) as a game-changer, environment NGO Greenpeace India said the scheme can help speed up India’s energy transition, from expensive and climate-destroying coal power towards cleaner and cheaper energy. “The new incentives for solar agricultural pumps and residential rooftop solar, can be a game-changer for the power generation and distribution sector, speeding up India’s energy transition away from expensive, polluting, climate-destroying coal power towards cleaner and cheaper energy and ensuring we meet our international solar commitments,” said Pujarini Sen, climate and energy campaigner, Greenpeace India.
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Sen said for the scheme to work, it is essential that distribution companies pay fair rates to farmers for the electricity they purchase from their solar arrays. “Loans should be easily available to farmers and there must be state government-enforced mechanisms to ensure equipment quality and the technical competence of contractors for both, rural and rooftop solar schemes. Now that money has been allocated, proper implementation is key to unlocking the scheme’s full benefits,” she said.
Under the scheme – KUSUM Yojna – which was announced by the centre in February 2018, farmers having barren or agriculturally unproductive land will be provided with financial assistance, to set up solar power plants. “KUSUM can potentially revitalise discoms, by converting farmers from importers of subsidised electricity to exporters of clean solar energy. This revolutionary idea can reduce, if not progressively eliminate, agricultural power subsidies. Such decentralised solar installations will create economic opportunities that come with steady electricity access,” said Akhilesh Magal, head – advisory, Gujarat Energy Research & Management Institute (GERMI).
Greenpeace India, in a statement, said that it has been campaigning for the speedy implementation of the KUSUM scheme, ever since its announcement in the 2018 budget. “In addition, a series of ‘Rooftop Revolution’ reports, mapping the rooftop solar potential of various cities across India (Delhi, Patna, Hyderabad and Chennai), have been making the case for further budgetary support to residential rooftop solar for many years now. Although the Finance Ministry had not released the funds promised in the 2018 budget, the Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs stepped in Tuesday (February 19, 2019) and released Rs 46,000 crores till 2022, for not just KUSUM but rooftop solar, as well,” the NGO said.