Mumbai: In 2017-18, Karnataka’s agriculture sector received, on average, six hours of power per day--lowest among the states for which data were available--according to latest national data.

With 70% of the state’s population dependent on agriculture, and 70% of the state’s cultivable land dependent on low and erratic rainfall, power supply for irrigation is crucial ahead of elections to the state’s assembly on May 12, 2018.

Rural Karnataka, which accounts for 154 (69%) of the state’s 224 legislative constituencies, remains the primary focus of the election. Nearly 61% of Karnataka’s population lives in rural areas, and 54.6% of the state’s workforce is employed in agriculture and allied activities.

Karnataka’s farmers are battling drought and water shortage, and have been under dire financial duress, with the state recording second highest number of farmer suicides in 2016, IndiaSpend reported on May 8, 2018.

Uttarakhand, Odisha and Telangana saw nearly round-the-clock power supply to agriculture, according to Central Electricity Authority (CEA) of India’s March 2018 report. Poorer states such as Bihar and Chhattisgarh--at 18 hours a day--also fared better in supplying power to agriculture.

Power Supply to Agricultural Sector In 2017-18, Selected States
State Average hours per day
Karnataka 6
Rajasthan 5 - 6.45
Andhra Pradesh 7
Gujarat 8
Tamil Nadu 9
Maharashtra 8 - 9
Haryana 8 - 9.34
Punjab 4 - 10.19
Bihar 18
Chhattisgarh 18
Uttar Pradesh 17.37 - 19.47
Jharkhand 20
West Bengal 23
Uttarakhand 22.42 - 24
Odisha 24
Telangana 9 -24

Source: Central Electricity Authority

In 2016-17, agriculture--specifically, water pumping through irrigation pump sets--accounted for 40% of the state’s power consumption, according to data from the Karnataka Economic Survey 2017-18. Domestic (22%) and industrial (14%) consumption followed.

Irrigation--through pump sets--is imperative for the growth of the agricultural sector in the state, as 70% of cultivable land in Karnataka, as we said, is dependent on low and erratic rainfall.

Between June and September 2017, cumulative rainfall recorded in Karnataka was 774 millimetres (mm), as against a normal of 839 mm--a deficit of 8% with six districts falling under rainfall deficit category.

“Overall, the state escaped from severe drought situation due to favourable rains during August, September and October 2017,” the economic survey noted.

Tube/bore wells accounted for the 43% of the net irrigated area among all irrigational sources, followed by canals (29%) and dug wells (12%).

Power deficit drops, yet Karnataka continues to face shortages

Karnataka’s installed power capacity rose 91% from 13,978 MW in March 2014 to 26,697 MW in March 2018. As of March 2018, Karnataka’s installed capacity accounts for 8% of India’s total capacity, up from 6% in 2014.

Power generation (including short-term imports from states) in Karnataka declined 9%–from 46 billion units (BU) in 2015-16 to 42 billion units in 2016-17–according to state’s economic survey 2017-18.

One BU is enough to power 10 million households--one household consuming, on average, 3 units per day--for a month.

“Karnataka state has been experiencing conditions of power shortage because of the ever-growing demand for power influenced by the rapid economic progress,” the states Economic Survey 2017-18 said.

The state meets its power shortage from neighbouring states. The growing demand and delay in completion of power generation projects in the state and central stations have led to increase power purchase from independent power producers, the report said.

Power distress is visible in urban areas as well. The state’s capital, Bengaluru, is facing power outages for long hours with elections around the corner, the News Minute reported on April 25, 2018.

“Unless the government manages its companies in the power sector in professional manner, allows [Karnataka Electricity Regulatory Commission] KERC to function as per the Electricity Act, 2003, and promotes solar energy in mission mode, supplying power on 24X7 basis will remain a mirage in the state,” Bhamy V Shenoy, an energy expert wrote in Deccan Herald in January 2018.

Karnataka’s energy deficit--difference between requirement and availability--was reported to be 362 million units (MU) in 2016-17, down 89% from 3.3 billion units (BU) in 2015-16.

The state’s energy requirement and supply is expected to increase by 7% (71.5 BU) and 16% (77 BU), respectively, in 2017-18 over its previous year, indicating a surplus of nearly 6 BU.

Karnataka’s peak power demand is expected to rise 9% from 10,261 megawatt (MW) in 2016-17 to 11,138 MW in 2017-18, according to CEA data. Peak power deficit--the difference between peak demand and peak supply--is expected to increase nearly 31 times--from 19 MW to 605 MW--over the same period.

100% villages electrified, but 6% rural households still lack access

As of April 1, 2015, Karnataka had 39 unelectrified villages, all of which have been electrified since, according to the Centre’s Grameen Vidyutikaran dashboard. Of these, only 31% or 12 villages have all households electrified.

A village is considered electrified if power is provided to at least 10% households and public places like schools, panchayat offices, health centres, dispensaries and community centres.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced 100% electrification of all villages across the country on April 28, 2018. However, this was contested as only 8% of the villages had all the households electrified, and more than 30 million households are yet to be electrified across the country.

As of May 7, 2018, of the 9.4 million rural households in the state, 94% (8.8 million) have been electrified, according to the Centre’s Saubhagya household electrification dashboard, while 580,376 households still lack access to electricity.

Correction: An earlier version of this story said Karnataka's power generation decline 20% in a year to 2016-17. It was pointed out to us that the figure for 2015-16 included short-term imports from states while it was excluded in 2016-17. The power generation figures for 2016-17 have been updated to include short-term imports, and the decline in power generation--including short-term imports from states--has been corrected to 9%. We regret the error.

(Mallapur is an analyst with IndiaSpend.)

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