Dhaka, Sept 14 – The Bangladesh government has planned to make the tariff of solar-run irrigation pumps equal to that of the grid electricity-run irrigation ones.According to official sources, the consumers of solar-run irrigation pumps have to pay about Tk 17.73 per unit while that of grid electricity-run pumps Tk 4.16 per unit.
“So, there’s a gap of Tk 13.57 per unit which creates a big impediment to the government move to convert diesel-run irrigation pumps into solar-run irrigation systems,” said a top official at the Sustainable and Renewable Energy Development Authority (Sreda).
However, Sreda chairman Mohammad Alauddin, also an additional secretary to Power Division, said there has been no final decision yet.
“Still, Sreda, other power distribution bodies and agencies have been working on it,” he told UNB.
Official sources said a comparative study on the issue found that if a power distribution company is provided with Tk 0.014 (1.4 paisa) as financial support to the utilities, the project on solar-run irrigation pumps could be easily implemented across the country.
They said the government’s new initiative to strike the balance between the tariff of solar power and grid power is part of its move to replace the diesel-run irrigation pumps with solar-powered ones throughout the country.
According to them, there are some 1.55 million irrigation pumps across the country and 1.25 million of them are diesel-run pumps. For these diesel-run pumps, the government has to import diesel worth about Tk 4,500 crore annually.
The government initiated a plan to replace some 100,000 diesel-operated irrigation pumps in the first phase with solar-powered ones as part of the government’s policy initiative to increase the use of solar power and reduce the consumption of fossil fuel for irrigation pump operation.
As per the initiative, Sreda moved to implement a pilot project in Kushtia in this regard to have a technical and financial analysis of the pump replacement project.
Sreda officials said irrigation through solar-powered pumps initially seemed to be costlier. “But in the final calculation, it might be found to be cost-effective and more economic than diesel-run one,” he mentioned.
Other officials said it was found in different studies that if the diesel-run pumps are replaced with solar irrigation ones, it will bring huge benefits for the country.
Especially, they said, solar pumps will reduce the use of about 50 percent of water now the farmers are lifting for irrigation.
Explaining the matter, they said, when farmers use a solar pump for irrigation, they normally try to lift 20 percent less water compared to the diesel-pump use.
In the solar irrigation process, the water supply to the field will be through underground plastic pipes instead of conventional use of open canals, they mentioned.
According to them, such a process will reduce another 30 percent as there will be no evaporation and sucking of water by soil.
Siddique Zobair, a former member of Sreda, said it was found in the study that when an open canal is used for irrigation, some 30 percent water is misused due to evaporation and sucking by soil.
So, he said, when all the positive things are considered, irrigation pumps are cost-effective and economic ones.
The Sreda officials also said one solar-run irrigation pump normally covers an area equivalent to one covered by four diesel-run irrigation pumps.
“So, if we install 100,000 solar-run irrigation pumps, it’ll ultimately replace 400,000 diesel-run irrigation pumps,” said one of the officials, preferring not to be named.
He said there were 1.35 million diesel-run irrigation pumps across the country and 1,350 have been replaced with solar-run ones. – UNB