The phone at the Greenpeace office in Patna rang non-stop for a week. More than five hundred farmers from all over the state of Bihar were calling to know more about solar based irrigation system.

This phone-call-frenzy was caused by an article on the Greenpeace activity involving pilot installations of solar based irrigation system. These demonstrations were installed at Purnea & Vaishali districts of Bihar, which were inaugurated by local MLA's of JD (U) Mrs Leshi Singh & Mr Satish Kumar respectively.

Greenpeace has been campaigning for renewable energy in the state of Bihar over the last 3 years to create an enabling environment for the government to adopt renewable energy as a means of solving its enormous energy crisis. In an effort to drive the right solutions and get the right stakeholders excited and involved, Greenpeace organised demonstrations of the concept of solar based irrigation system which can bring about a transformation in the state, both in terms of energy and agriculture, as the state is predominantly agrarian and there is a huge amount of diesel being consumed by farmers to operate their pumping sets due to the lack or unavailability of energy in the rural areas.

Solar irrigation pump in Bihar

Water pumps for irrigation in agriculture are an important aspect of energy use in India. There are over 20 million irrigation pumps in use in the country, these irrigation pumps account for as much as 20% of the entire grid electricity consumption of India and more than half of the pumps are run on diesel power due to the lack or unavailability of grid electricity. Even with the subsidy, the price has been escalating, and there exists a very real possibility that diesel subsidies will be partially or fully abandoned in the near future, leading to even higher prices.

The sun, in contrast, is free! Solar-powered irrigation systems can be the right solution to the woes of the farmers not only of Bihar but also the whole country and bring about an agricultural revolution. This can not only solve the problem of unavailability of electricity for agriculture, the huge consumption of subsidised diesel but also increase the agricultural productivity and make the lives of farmers economically better.

India's government has been taking unrealistic measures to increase the share of renewable energy uptake, both at the generation and consumption levels by focusing on grid-connected mega projects and ignoring massive potential of deploying off-grid renewable applications. Increasing the share of renewable energy feeding its national grid alone is not sufficient, as there is still a large share of the population waiting for access to reliable and quality energy supply. Hence, we need to complement top-down energy policy change with bottom-up, consumer driven initiatives to transform our energy delivery system and move a clean and sustainable future.