Beyond putting poles and wires
24-hour quality power supply to all will take time, explains Gyan Pathak
'Electrification' of India was completed on April 28, 2018, according to a tweet by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, which claimed the government has 'fulfilled a commitment'. However, the subsequent government clarifications revealed that there were several villages 'not-electrified' and electrification work was in progress.
Hundred per cent electrification of our towns and villages has been a long cherished dream of our country, and no one should deny the work done by successive governments in this regard. When the Modi government came to power in May 2014, all our towns and cities (around 7,935) apart from 475 urban agglomerations and majority of the 64,9481 villages were already electrified. His government only renamed the erstwhile Rajiv Gandhi Gram Vidyutikaran Yojna (RGGVY) as Deen Dayal Upadhyay Gram Jyoti Yojna (DDUGJY) in 2015, which had identified 18,452 un-electrified villages. The small number of un-electrified villages was an advantage to this government, which is patting its back for 100 per cent electrification and criticising earlier governments for not providing power to the villages. One must keep in mind that 'power for all' is a joint effort of the all the states and the Centre, the present and the earlier governments, which were also responsible for the delay in realising the dream.
No doubt, this government has also contributed a lot in electrification of these un-electrified villages, but there are miles to go before we electrify all the villages in the real sense of the term. It is because the definition of 'village' does not include the meaning that we understand in common parlance. A village for electrification purpose is only a Census village duly identifiable as per the Census code. It does not necessarily include sub-village units like habitations, hamlets, dhanis, majras, or tolas etc. It means when electric poles and wires are put in place in a Census village, even if partially, they are said to be electrified. It is clear from media reports and the clarification given by the government that all the tolas, hamlets, or habitations etc are yet to get electric wires and poles.
In this backdrop, universal access to electricity will remain a dream for millions of people though we have Pradhan Mantri Sahaj Bijli Har Ghar Yojna, popularly known as Saubhagya launched in September last year. The aim of this yojna is to provide last mile connectivity and service connections to all remaining households in both rural and urban areas to achieve universal household electrification. It is a more difficult task than the 'electrification' of villages. According to recent reports, about 18 per cent of households (around 2.7 crore) in the rural areas are yet to get electricity connections while this figure for urban areas is around 3 per cent, which is around one crore households. Though all the states, irrespective of their ruling political establishments, have agreed to give electricity connection to all by March 31, 2019, along with twenty-four-hour quality power supply, we are not likely to achieve that due to several reasons.
The data released last week by the Central Electricity Authority reveals that we have only 3,44,002 MW installed capacity, which cannot cater to the growing demand. Contribution of the state sector is 24.6 per cent, private sector 45.2 per cent, and the central sector 30.2 per cent. A total of 64.8 per cent of the installed capacity is of thermal power plants (using coal, gas or oil), 13.2 per cent of hydro power plants, 2 per cent of nuclear power plants, and 20 per cent of RES (renewable resources). Over-reliance on thermal power needs to be changed in favour of other cleaner energy sources, the task that should be taken up earnestly not only for environmental reasons but also to make electricity affordable for all. The installed capacity has been doubled over the past decade but was mostly of the thermal power, which is costly and unclean compared to other types of power plants.
In 2015-16, the government had planned to double the installed capacity in ten years; however, the work is slowly inching forward for several reasons, including the problems of land acquisition. However, we were able to add 30 GW capacity annually for the last two years.
The growth in electricity generation from the conventional resources has always been very poor in this country. In the year when the Modi government came to power the growth rate was 8.43 per cent. It has been declining for the last four years and was only 4.72 per cent in 2016-17, further coming down to 3.95 per cent in 2017-18.
The plant load factor of our installations needs to be enhanced to fully utilise their installed capacity. It has been deteriorating since 2009-10 when it was at 77.5 per cent. By 2014-15, it fell to 64.46 per cent. It has been declining since then, standing at 59.88 per cent in 2016-17, with minor improvement in 2017-18 to 60.67 per cent.
The trend of power supply and demand shows that we have been suffering from short supply of electricity. A deficit of about 0.7 per cent has been recorded in the last two years in non-peak hours. The situation has deteriorated a little in 2017-18 compared to the previous year. The peak-hour deficit was 1.6 per cent in 2016-17, which further deteriorated to 2 per cent in 2017-18. With the latest achievement in electrification, the demand will go up adding further challenges to supply. India needed 12,12,134 MU of electricity in 2017-18, and we will need additional 1,00,000 MU next year. The demand will be doubled in ten years and even at the present rate, the annual per capita electricity consumption is only one-eighth that of France or Germany (7000 kWh) and just one-fifteenth of US (12000 kWh), which needs to be improved in the short term. However, the government does not seem prepared to meet the demand at affordable price.IPA
(The views expressed
are strictly personal)