Agriculture occupies a critical position in the country’s economy, ensuring food security, providing livelihoods, and indeed as a way of life for most rural people. Due to many reasons, growth in agriculture has been largely driven by groundwater based irrigation, powered by electricity. It is also certain that the dominance of groundwater will continue in the coming years.

From the early 1990s, a significant thread in the story of reforms in electricity sector has been the financial unsustainability of the distribution sector. One of the reasons cited has been the subsidised supply of electricity to agriculture. Subsidised supply has also been held responsible for poor quality of supply and excessive use of groundwater. Increasing the agriculture electricity tariffs has been a major suggestion for improving distribution sector finances.

In spite of several decades of this approach, the problems persist. An important reason for this is the failure to acknowledge the strong and complex linkages between the electricity, water and agriculture sectors, and to recognise that it is practically impossible to address the issues of one without comprehensively addressing challenges in all the other sectors.

With this in mind, this discussion paper in two volumes brings out the linkages between electricity, water and agriculture sectors. It also highlights the need to take these linkages into consideration when planning agricultural electricity supply.  Volume 1 of the paper focuses on an overview of the linkages and Volume 2 provides a detailed analysis of the electricity sector related issues of the linkage.

It is our hope that this discussion paper would catalyse a healthy discussion among actors in electricity, water and agriculture sectors, towards a better understanding of the challenges and evolving sustainable solutions.