Going beyond free power
In what has been termed as a pre-election sop by the AAP government, Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal announced that electricity will be effectively free for consumers using less than 200 units. He also stated that for those consuming between 200 and 400 units, a 50 per cent subsidy on state's account would continue. Kejriwal's announcement follows his congratulatory note for Delhi on the fifth straight year of no hike in electricity tariffs but rather a reduction of fixed charges for domestic connections by up to 84 per cent. The Delhi Electricity Regulatory Commission (DERC) kept the same energy charges for all categories, except for those who consume more than 1,200 units per month. Kejriwal took note of the fact that Delhi is the only place where up to 200 units the electricity is free besides around the clock supply. For comparison purposes, 200 units cost Rs 1,400 in Mumbai, Rs 1,310 in Noida and Rs 910 in Gurgaon. Given the national rates, Delhi definitely climbs up the pecking order when it comes to electricity now. The national capital has around 5 million domestic power consumers which bill the state exchequer anything between Rs 1700-2000 crore annually. Kejriwal's announcement follows AAP's constant eye on reducing the power and water cost for the local residents owing to its poll promises back in 2015. In fact, free water and electricity have been the cornerstones of the Kejriwal government who has ensured zero-hike in power prices for all five years of their administration which deserves to be lauded. While free electricity under 200 units has been widely seen as a poll gimmick, the consistency in power rates and 50 per cent power subsidy since 2015 tend to trump such perceptions. In fact, these point to the constant interest directed towards making the national capital equipped with incessant electricity. With elections for Delhi Assembly due in less than a year, free electricity promise, in minds of many, is similar to the free metro ride touted for women in the Delhi Metro. But, more than the sops for next year's elections, these freebies account for the current term of AAP at the helm who has ensured comprehensive development ranging from schools to electricity to mohalla clinics.
Electricity, no doubt, has become an essential part of urban society. With further advancement, the need for incessant electricity will only increase. It is to this length that one must understand the value of having free power up to 200 units and 50 per cent subsidy on 200 more. Many households fall under this power-consumption level, that too in summer months. In winter months, this basket will increase to encompass more and thus, make this provision very popular. However, it is not always in the best interest for the government to endure the cost. Such provisions need to be short-term until there is a comprehensive network of sustainable energy solutions available at the disposal of the state government. Should Delhi develop solar farms to produce even half of the city's power requirement, funds currently utilised in providing 50 per cent subsidy and free electricity under 200 units could be channelised in other development areas. AAP's effort in creating a mega water reservoir on the banks of Yamuna to make the Capital self-efficient in the water supply is an advanced step in making Delhi water-sustainable. A similar step for permanently addressing the power woes would perhaps catapult Delhi in the list of world-class sustainable capitals. This will also promote Delhi to the level of a role-model city and state-governance which can be emulated by states to achieve sustainability at their end. India's stride in solar power, keeping the Solar Alliance initiative, has been commendable and if Delhi can carve out a master plan to implement solar panels across the city or on the outskirts, the city will hugely benefit from the plan. With the advent of e-vehicles, there will be a lingering need for charging outlets which will increase power consumption on both, the government as well as the individual's end. If solar panels, currently the most sustainable method to harness electricity, are brought to mass usage, Delhi will find itself in another league of sustainability. Future outlook is important to capitalise on progress made towards sustainability and commendable governance which will obviously augment living standards.