New Delhi: Every day, 20 million pumps toil endlessly to siphon water into India’s mainstay—agriculture. These pumps also account for almost 23% of the country’s total electricity consumption.
Smoother flow: Energy-efficient pumps could change the fortunes of this farmer from Punjab. Madhu Kapparath / Mint
What makes for an even more stunning statistic, however, is the average efficiency of these pumps. Saurabh Kumar, secretary of the Bureau of Energy Efficiency (BEE), says: “22-23% of total electricity consumption means around 150 billion units of power a year. And most existing pumps work at an efficiency factor of 30%.”
BEE is a statutory body which has the mandate for energy conservation and operates under the Union power ministry.
But a small beginning that can transform the sector is stirring in rural India. “The sector, as you can calculate, has the potential for huge savings in power and revenue. Existing technology in energy-efficient (pumps) can easily improve efficiency from 30% to 55%,” says Kumar.
BEE has selected five states—Maharashtra, Gujarat, Rajasthan, Haryana and Punjab—for a pilot study on demand-side management vis-à-vis agricultural pumps. In one of the studies at Solapur in Maharashtra, 2,400 old pumps were replaced in two months. Demand for power went down by 30%. “With that, the state straightaway saves a lot of revenue through subsidy reduction,” says Kumar.
The business model is implemented through energy service firms, which replace the pumps and, in turn, the revenue saved from electricity purchase by the state finances these firms.
One of the main bottlenecks in shifting to more energy-efficient pumps, which on average cost 20% more, is the users themselves. “Farmers don’t have to pay for the energy they use, which creates a strange situation. But I would also say that awareness of energy usage-labelled products and keenness to buy such products has escalated in the recent past,” says Ankit Patidar, director of marketing at Shakti Pumps (India) Ltd, which has around 100 models of different pumps that qualify for a five-star rating in energy efficiency from BEE. Kumar adds the incentive to shift is there. He says BEE has convinced some companies to provide a year-long warranty with their pumps, a move which has received a favourable response from farmers.
N.C. Tiwari, general manager of Kirloskar Brothers Ltd, says: “In the total lifecycle cost, (the) initial cost of (a) pump is about 5-10%, maintenance is 10-15% and the rest is the energy cost. With little changes in the initial cost, lot can be saved on energy and maintenance cost.” Kirloskar’s water pump portfolio also has five-star rated pumps.
The trend towards efficiency is optimistic. Under BEE’s labelling programme, more companies than not have received four- or five-star ratings in efficiency. “The pumps labelling scheme is about six-seven months old. The air conditioner and refrigerator markets transformed over time to much more efficient appliances. You have to give it a little more time,” says Kumar.