Solar applications in rural areas are growing, especially in the form of solar pumps. With the introduction of the KUSUM scheme and the policy push to promote uptake, solar pumps are expected to see greater adoption. Saravanan Panneer Selvam, general manager, Grundfos India, talks to Renewable Watch about the company’s experience in the solar pump market, its key focus areas and future plans. Excerpts…
What are Grundfos’ key focus areas?
Grundfos has been active in India for the past two decades. It has operations in the manufacturing industry, and the building services and water utility segments. The manufacturing sectors served include food, pharmaceuticals, textiles and automotive. The services provided to the industrial sector account for 56 per cent of the business. The building services segment comprises commercial and domestic building services. The water utility segment mainly relates to municipal water supply and municipal waste water. Water supply is carried out through large pumps to supply water to villages, while waste water refers to sewage treatment plants. This segment also includes drinking water supply pumps, which are driven by solar or electrical energy. Building services and water utilities account for 32 per cent and 12 per cent of the business respectively.
What are some of Grundfos’ recent products?
Grundfos has been supplying solar pumps with Central Electronics India since 1998. Its product offerings include submersible solar pumps for drinking water applications. These are unique since they have 3 inch diameters as opposed to 4 or 8 inches, which is common in the market. Besides, these pumps function at a higher value of rotations per minute. Since the pump caters to the flexible needs of customers, it is referred to as a flex pump. We have also recently come up with submersible solar pumps for the agricultural market.
What is the company’s business model and what is its current market share?
Instead of directly setting up solar pumps in villages, Grundfos deals with system integrators and supplies pumps to them. The system integrators then set up the pumps in villages. However, Grundfos has service centres across Indian cities which directly deal with any issues. Grundfos’ market share for agricultural solar pumps in India is very low due to its very recent market entry. Millions of pumps are operating in the agricultural sector across India; however, only 7,500 to 8,000 pumps are supplied per year for drinking water schemes. Of these drinking water pumps, around 6,000 pumps are supplied by Grundfos per year. Thus, in the solar drinking water market, Grundfos has a market share of about 75 per cent.
What are your views on the KUSUM scheme? Which states are seeing greater uptake of solar pumps?
The KUSUM scheme introduced by the government is a step in the right direction and we expect more orders to come in under this scheme. Although fine-tuning is required, the scheme is quite impressive and will give a major boost to solar pump installations in the agricultural sector. Apart from the central subsidy, there are subsidies at the state level, but they differ from state to state. The subsidy depends on how aggressively the state plans to implement solar pumps. If you remove subsidies, solar pumps would be relatively more expensive than other electrical pumps. However, solar pumps have the benefit of minimal operational costs since basic module cleaning is the only maintenance required. Chhattisgarh is one state where solar pumps are well utilised. In addition to plans and strategies, execution makes a huge difference. Odisha, Uttar Pradesh, Rajasthan and Haryana are some other states that are doing well in the solar pumps segment. A recent state to join this category is Telangana, which also provides a subsidy for solar pumps.
In terms of overcoming challenges what do you think needs to be done?
It is not just plans and strategies that promote uptake; implementation too plays a huge part. The schemes are in place, the policies are good and the government has the intent to push the agenda. Power tariffs also play a key role in determining uptake. If state governments give free power to villagers, they will not have any interest or reason to switch to solar pumps. Using solar pumps has two major advantages. One is that the user gets water in the day-time and is saved the inconvenience of waking up at odd hours to switch on the pump. The other advantage pertains to the add-on storage element, which allows power to be used for other functions as well.
What are the company’s future plans in terms of targets and innovations in this space?
Grundfos plans to supply more and more solar pumps. It believes in supplying energy efficient pumps. The integrated frequency converter in the motor does not need an external controller. To leverage this technology, we would like to bring more pumps of bigger sizes with an integrated system. This will reduce the number of devices required as only the pump and the module need to be purchased.