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Creating the Frankenstein’s Monster for India’s Groundwater

Solar Irrigation Cooperatives

This article challenges the analysis and arguments presented in Tushaar Shah et al (2017). It shows on the basis of empirical data that solar photovoltaic systems for well irrigation are economically unviable, and offering high capital subsidies for such systems and then guaranteeing a higher feed-in-tariff for the electricity produced than the market price would ruin the state electricity utilities and distort energy markets, while incentivising farmers to pump excess groundwater to raise water-inefficient crops and sell the excess water for a profit.

This is in response to the article “Promoting Solar Power as a Remunerative Crop” by Tushaar Shah et al (EPW, 11 November 2017). The article attempts to establish the economic viability of solar-pump irrigation, but presents little supporting evidence, while making too many faulty assumptions that fail to hold up from technical and economic perspectives.

The article begins with: “Anand, the Gujarat town that gave India its dairy cooperative movement, has now spawned in Dhundi village the world’s first solar cooperative that produces Solar Power as a Remunerative Crop” (p 14). Dairy cooperatives were founded at a time when there was an acute shortage of milk in the country and dairy farmers were being exploited by middlemen. Today, there is little scarcity of electricity in states like Gujarat. The real issue is free or subsidised electricity being given to farmers, leading to the inefficient use of energy, depletion of groundwater, and increased financial burden on the exchequer. Hence, the two scenarios are drastically different, giving states like Gujarat few reasons to opt for setting up solar cooperatives. It is easy enough to lay power connections for agriculture from a well-established grid, except that the electricity produced is not “clean”. Yet, the authors provide no data about the environmental benefits of using solar power over the electricity generated from fossil fuels.

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Updated On : 29th May, 2018

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