The Cabinet has approved a nation-wide scheme that boosts renewable power generation and farm incomes. Given sufficient political backing, it has the potential to improve state power utility finances as well. The scheme, titled KUSUM (Kisan Urja Suraksha evam Utthaan Mahabhiyan), has three components: build grid-connected solar power plants in rural areas of up to 2 MW capacity, set up 1.75 million off-grid solar-powered pump-sets for irrigational purposes and solarise 1million grid-connected agricultural pumps to make them standalone units that are also in a position to sell surplus power to distribution utilities.
Under KUSUM, the gameplan is to add 25,750 MW of solar power capacity by 2022, with over Rs 34,000 crore earmarked as central financial support. India gets about 300 clear sunny days annually, when fields need irrigation, mostly, and we do need to leverage our enviable natural resource endowment to gainfully step-up clean power and systematically raise our lowly energy consumption levels, even as we remain focused on stemming carbon emissions to arrest global warming and tackle climate change. But concurrently, it is imperative that the political executive take proactive steps to put paid to runaway revenue leakage in power distribution.
The current levels of state power utility losses, thanks to tacit political patronage of theft and giveaways, simply misallocate scarce resources, stymie much-need infrastructural development, come in the way of quality power supply and generally stultify growth. If distribution utilities remain financially moribund, farmers would hardly be in a position to monetise their surplus power. Limited, duly budgeted subventions for power are fine, not reckless giveaways. KUSUM’s success depends on viable power finances.