Increasing efficient water and energy use in agriculture


Efficient consumption of energy and water – both crucial resources for agriculture – can be improved by their comanagement by farmers, state governments, groundwater agencies and distribution companies (DISCOMs). Pilot studies have observed that electricity can be conserved using efficient pumping system in place. But the commercial viability of such plans and their benefits to both farmers and DISCOMS have not yet been demonstrated. This project, Water-Energy Nexus Activity II (WENEXA), was implemented under USAID and Ministry of Power, Government of India partnership. It was implemented in 34 villages in the Doddaballapura area in Karnataka from 2008 to 2011.


The roles of the partners and stakeholders were as follows:
• USAID and Ministry of Power, Government of India sponsored the project.
• Bangalore Electricity Supply Company (BESCOM): Upgradation and maintenance of electrical network, metering and supporting energy service companies (ESCOs) in building a relationship with farmers and ensuring timely payments to ESCOs
• Energy-Saving Company (ESCO)– Enzen Global: Financing, planning, procurement, replacement, and maintenance of pumps; water interventions; and obtaining farmers’ consent
• Tetra Tech: Implementation and technical consultant
• Bangla Natak: Capacity building of farmers
• Farmers: Usage of pump sets, participation in capacity-building workshops and providing feedback


The aim underlying this project focused on widespread implementation of energy and water efficient pump system. New branded energy-efficient pump sets (BEE 5 star rated) with low operations and maintenance (O&M) costs were provided to farmers on the condition that they replace the older, inefficient pumpsets. Farmers were also promised a reliable and quality supply of power suitable for energy efficient pump sets.
The project included the following processes:

(i) Upgradation of the electrical network
To ensure reliable and quality supply and verifiable measurement of electricity, consumption networks were upgraded through three processes: Elimination of LT lines, Automated Meter Reading and Arial Bunch Cable Installation. Among other improvements, the changes allowed BESCOM to monitor the status of transformers without the need to visit the fields.

(ii) Collection and processing of data
The services of an NGO were engaged to collect basic information on pumpsets to aid in business decisionmaking. The survey included the following details:
• Gram Panchayat/ Village/Farmer’s name;
• Irrigated area;
• Area under drip irrigation;
• Area under flood irrigation;
• Irrigated crops;
• Number of borewells;
• Depth of borewells;
• Current groundwater level;
• Connected load of pump sets; and,
• Pump make and number of stages.

(iii) Request for proposal
A request for proposal (RFP) document was issued by BESCOM in December 2008. It called for an ESCO to participate in the program by replacing existing irrigation pumps with new, energy-efficient pumps.

(iv) Bidding
The bidding process commenced with the issuance of RFP and followed the procedures as set out by the government of Karnataka. The bidding process included the following
• Pre tender consultation with ESCOs
• Issuance of RFP document to the ESCOs
• Statement of qualification & financial proposal submission
• Evaluation of statement of qualifications
• Finalist orals for qualifying ESCOs
• Evaluation of financial proposal
• Bid evaluation and notification of top-ranked ESCOs
• Award of contract.

(v) Selection of ESCO
The technical evaluation involved selection of an ESCO which could recognize the dual impact of groundwater extraction on both water and energy sectors. It was supposed to be a company with demonstrable and sustainable capability in facing on-ground challenges, as well as one that promoted forward thinking and strategic planning by bringing together water, energy, agriculture and rural development and financial institutions.

The financial bid was opened for those ESCOs which were found to be technically viable. The ESCO which quoted highest multiplication value of electricity saving from the pump replacement and waterside interventions and sharing of saving with BESCOM, was given the highest financial ranking.

(vi) Execution of capacity building programme
An NGO conducted a capacity-building programme for farmers. The training workshop, which provided over 4,400 days of training, covered the following areas:
• Training on drip irrigation and efficiency improvement;
• Sustainable, agriculture and best practices;
• Exposure visits;
• Group discussions;
• Training and watershed development; and
• Experiential sharing workshops for pilot farmers.

In addition, Bangla Natak was engaged to build the capacity of the farmers through street plays.

Implementation Phases
The implementation of a complex project such as this was divided into three phases:
(i) Pre-installation: Farmer’s mobilization meetings were conducted, which included discussions on:
• Program objectives;
• Program benefits;
• Program structure;
• Agriculture activities and irrigation methods; and,
• Underground water levels.

Other pre-installation activities included a baseline survey on farming, electricity consumption, and irrigation, identification and evaluation of high-quality pump suppliers, and an energy audit of pump sets.

(ii) Installation: To enable selection of high-efficiency pumps, details of the energy audit and baseline energy consumption were shared with pump manufacturers, who were then asked to recommend suitable new high-efficiency pumps. All necessary accessories were procured.
(iii) Post-installation: This phase included disposal of old pumps, monitoring, and verification, addressing of complaints related to new pump sets, training and capacity-building and creating awareness.

The project encountered several challenges at all the stages. For instance, transmission of a vast network and tough terrain have come out as one the biggest obstacles in upgradation of the electrical network; this is followed by data-related issues included old records, illegal connections, or lack of water-related data; and so on.

During capacity building, it was observed that employees avoided working in, and learning from, rural areas. These challenges were addressed partly or wholly through sensitization, capacity-building, the involvement of third parties for baseline creation, a robust commercial model and enlisting technology in recording electricity consumption and maintaining a reliable power supply.

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Rakesh Kumar Goyal
Tetra Tech


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