Gujarat Decides to Implement Solar Agricultural Feeder Program on Pilot Basis

The Gujarat Electricity Regulatory Commission (GERC) will support the implementation of Suryashakti Kisan Yojna (SKY) as a pilot project in Gujarat. The GERC was responding to a petition filed by Paschim Gujarat Vij Co. Ltd. (PGVCL), Uttar Gujarat Vij Co. Ltd. (UGVCL), Madhya Gujarat Vij Co. Ltd. (MGVCL) and Dakshin Gujarat Vij Co. Ltd. (DGVCL) for the implementation of SKY.

The distribution companies (DISCOMs) of Gujarat stated in the petition that in Gujarat, the share of electricity supply to the agriculture sector accounts for about 27 percent of the total electricity supplied. The revenue contribution from agriculture sector is only about 3 percent of the total revenue of the four DISCOMs towards the supply of power to all categories of consumers.

To achieve the objective of addressing energy requirements of farmers, empowering the rural economy and to eliminating/reducing financial stress on DISCOMs and on the state government and its citizens, the state government has decided to utilize solar resources for the benefit of the farmers and accordingly notified the SKY program to be implemented on a pilot basis.

DISCOMs had also petitioned the GERC for the purchase of surplus solar power from farmers at ₹3.50 (~$0.048)/kWh.  The program is to be implemented on a pilot basis, on 137 agriculture feeders covering 12,400

agriculture connections having an aggregate load of 142,000 HP in 33 districts of Gujarat. Under the pilot program, it is estimated that solar photovoltaic (PV) panels of aggregate capacity of 175 MW will be installed in the field of farmers at an estimated cost of ₹9 billion (~$0.12 billion).

After examining the submission made by DISCOMs the GERC was of the view that the DISCOM must go in for lower number of feeders (such as50 feeders or so) and conduct a cost benefits analysis after the results of two quarters, and then implement the scheme based on the results.

In its order the GERC stated that the SKY program will be optional for farmers to participate. For redressal of any grievance arising out of this program, a nodal officer will be designated by the DISCOMs at the division level. If the grievances are not addressed by the nodal officer within 30 days, the grievances will be transferred to Consumer Grievance Redressal Forum (CGRF) for a necessary and speedy resolution.

The GERC has also asked the DISCOMs to submit the details of the number of feeders, number of farmers who opted for the program, energy purchased from farmers, amount paid to farmers, losses in selected feeders, and the cost/benefit of the program after the end of the current financial year.

The GERC also stated that after reviewing the data submitted by DISCOMs at the end of current fiscal year, it will decide whether to charge a tariff of ₹3.50 (~$0.048)/kWh for net energy consumed by the farmers, to protect the interest of farmers. Until then the DISCOM will charge applicable tariff for the consumer category.

The state had announced this program in June 2018 through which it planned to provide farmers with solar panels to generate solar power on their lands.

Maharashtra had tendered 750 MW of solar projects for agricultural feeders in June 2018 and a tariff ceiling of ₹3.10 (~$0.042)/kWh was set for these projects recently. Earlier Maharashtra also announced that solar projects for agricultural feeders in the state will get a 30-year property tax rebate.

In March 2018, the Government of India announced that it is preparing to launch the Kisan Urja Suraksha evam Utthaan Mahabhiyan (KUSUM) program which aims to solarize the agricultural sector using solar-powered water pumps and provide solar-powered electricity to rural areas. Mercom had earlier written about how solar can be a game changer for India’s agricultural sector.


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