July 5, 2016: Aiming financially sustainability for agriculture and industrial sectors in Maharashtra, the state government is working on a draft plan to separate and shift agriculture feeders from coal to solar energy. In Maharashtra, the power supply to farmers is subsidised at 85 paise per unit. As a consequence of which, Rs 8,000 crore financial load incurred on subsidy given to farmers is partially recovered from domestic and industrial consumers, which results in higher power rates for them. On-recovery of dues from agriculture is also sharply rising having surpassed Rs 15,000 crore.
The solar power push
The sum of Rs 8,000 crore which goes in subsidy can be utilized for installing solar power stations, and if 1.37 crore farmers shift from thermal to solar energy, the cost of thermal energy would reduce drastically. This move may as well provide relief to the industrial unit.
The standard cost of power ranges from Rs 5.50 to Rs 6.50 per unit. But, the farmers get power at 85 paise to Re 1 per unit. On the other hand, industries receive power at Rs 8.50 to Rs 9.50 per unit.
Cost effective and sustainable energy model
The agriculture sector in Maharashtra requires a cost effective and sustainable energy model. Reeling under the fourth successive drought, the state has excused farmers from paying power bills. This has lead to extremely low recovery from agriculture sector.
At a meeting, held recently, Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis said that the procedure of shifting agriculture power to solar energy in a phased way needs to be taken up bearing in mind the 15 to 20 years prospect. Furthermore, he expressed concern over the disagreement from industries to address the high power tax in order to make them more competitive with the adjacent states.
Now, solar energy will power agriculture sector in Maharashtra
Even though Chandrashekhar Bawnakule, the Energy minister has instigated steps in such directions, with the promise to replace the present 40 lakh agriculture pumps with more efficient ones, the greater task is to muster revenue for the energy segment.
Further, the state government has pointed out that the railway wagons holding capacity varied but they consistently charged higher rates. The burglary was exposed by Bawankule through personal examination.
Another reform to boost revenue relates to enforcing electricity duty on consumers seeking electricity from third party instead of state agencies. This would assist the state to earn Rs 450 crore on a yearly basis. The government is set to bring legislation in the monsoon session through amendment in the Maharashtra State Electricity Duty Act.