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A decision support tool for evaluating the potential of solar-powered irrigation in India.

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Need for a Decision Support Tool

The Council on Energy, Environment and Water (CEEW), one of South Asia’s leading think-tanks, has developed an online map-based, interactive decision support tool to categorise India’s 613 districts as per their potential for the deployment of solar-powered irrigation systems. The main objective behind this tool is to help prioritise target regions, identify deployment strategies, and devise policy incentives appropriate to a region’s potential and limitations. The results presented help understand both impetus factors and bottlenecks determining the potential of solar-powered irrigation in a district.

The tool will assist policymakers deploy appropriate processes to ensure the adoption of solar-based irrigation, keeping in mind differing regional challenges. The tool will also support public and private financiers, entrepreneurs, and other business professionals to identify and target districts with a high potential for sustainable solar-based irrigation. It will also be a valuable resource for academics and researchers.


Solar for Irrigation in India

More than 50 per cent of all livelihoods in India depend on agriculture. Access to reliable and affordable irrigation is one of the most important enablers to increase agricultural productivity and incomes for farmers. Irrigation in the country predominantly depends on groundwater pumped through 19 million electric, and about 9 million diesel pumps. Despite such high numbers of pumps, 53 per cent of the net-sown area in the country remains unirrigated.

Against such a backdrop, solar pumps are emerging as an alternative to conventional pumps, filling in gaps of unreliable supply to electric pumps, and high fuel costs in running diesel pumps. Solar-powered irrigation systems hold the potential to enhance irrigation access, advance low-carbon agriculture, reduce the burden of electricity subsidies on the government, and improve resilience of cultivators against a changing climate.

In December 2017, the central government announced a new scheme called KUSUM (Kisan Urja Suraksha Evam Utthaan Mahaabhiyan), with a target of installing 17.5 Lakh stand-alone pumps, and solarisation of 10 lakh grid connected pumps by 2021-22. The number of installed pumps in India at the time was about 1,48,000.

In order to scale up the adoption of solar-powered irrigation systems, it is essential to ensure their economic viability, environmental benignity, and social acceptability.

The Council has produced a body of work on solar-powered irrigation to explore both supply and demand side aspects that can enable India to increase its net irrigated areas, reduce emissions and improve farmer incomes.

Know more about our work on Sustainable Irrigation.

The Council's Work on Energy Access

Lack of access to energy is a barrier for households, communities, and enterprises in reaching their desired potential. The Energy Access team at The Council envisions removing this barrier by using evidence-based research of on-ground realities to inform policies and businesses. The team does this through the collection and analysis of primary data, evaluation of policies and programmes, design of interventions, and the development of collaborative platforms that enable equitable access to modern energy for human development.

Know more about our work on Energy Access.

Acknowledgements 

The development of this tool is supported by Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) GmbH under its ‘Indo-German Energy Programme -Access to Energy in Rural Areas’(IGEN-ACCESS). The programme is supported by the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ). CEEW would like to thank GIZ team members Harald Richter (Head of the IGEN-ACCESS programme), Nilanjan Ghose (Project lead), Diego Senoner, Sucheta Rawat and Manisha (Project team).

CEEW would also like to thank Shalu Agrawal and Aniket Saha for their contributions to an earlier version of the Solar Pumps Tool.

CEEW and GIZ would also like to thank Ananth Aravamudan (Villgro Innovations Foundation), Avinash Kirshore (International Food Policy Research Institute), Gaurav Kumar (Claro Energy), Jeevan Mohanty and Karan Sehgal (International Fund for Agriculture Development), Nikhil Ghakhar (Ministry of New and Renewable Energy, India), and Santosh Singh (World Bank) for their valuable inputs at different stages of the development the tool.