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Universal electrification delivered

Beside lighting up every household in the country by March ‘19, the focus is on achieving 175 GW capacity in the renewable energy sector by 2022

Universal electrification delivered

We have set an ambitious goal for ourselves – the goal of providing access to 24x7 power to everyone in the country. Access to power here represents not only the connectivity to the network but also includes the availability of requisite infrastructure across the power sector value chain to ensure supply of quality and reliable power. And, we are well on our way to achieve our goal. The scale of the transition is such that has not been seen anywhere in the world.

The country achieved 100 per cent village electrification on April 28, 2018, a major landmark towards universal electrification. It was not merely connecting the remaining 18,500 odd villages to the electricity network but to reach out to the poorest of poor who had remained in darkness for more than 70 years after Independence. The challenges involved were huge – these challenges had stood as a barrier to extending electricity to these villages for such a long period. Most of these villages were located in remote inaccessible areas with difficult terrain in hilly areas, forest areas, areas severely affected with LWE activities etc., and transportation of material/equipment and mobilisation of manpower for execution of works required determination and perseverance. The difficulty level kept on increasing as the work progressed further. About 350 villages across Arunachal Pradesh (272), J&K (54), Meghalaya (9) and Manipur (12), located in remote and difficult terrain, required head loading of materials and trekking up to 10 days. Materials in some villages of J&K and Arunachal Pradesh had to be transported by helicopter. In 2762 villages, where extending grid network was not feasible due to remote and inaccessible locations, Solar based standalone systems were provided. Enormous challenges were confronted in the electrification of 7614 LWE villages in Bihar, Jharkhand, Chhattisgarh, Madhya Pradesh, and Odisha. The electrification of these remaining villages has paved the path for their socio-economic growth. We have the satisfaction of having achieved the target before the deadline. This programme has also set an example of effective cooperative federalism wherein the Union government, state governments, distribution companies, and administration synergised their efforts for mutual goal.

The next step was to light up every household. Prime Minister launched the 'Pradhan Mantri Sahaj Bijli Har Ghar Yojana' – Saubhagya in September 2017 with the aim to achieve universal household electrification. Achievement of this within the targeted timeline of March 2019 is the challenge we have given to ourselves. As the name of the scheme itself suggests, it has inherent features of 'Sahaj' i.e., simple/easy/effortless and 'Har Ghar' i.e., inclusive universal household electrification. A targeted program of such a scale has never been attempted in the world. The progress is again exemplary in terms of speed and innovation. We are lighting up an average of a hundred thousand houses every day. The happiness on the face of the people when their houses are lighted up with electricity is something to be seen. We crossed the milestone of lighting the lights to 2 crore households under the Saubhagya scheme (which started in October 2017) on November 19, 2018.

In addition to providing last mile connectivity, strengthening of backup system network in distribution and sub-transmission segment along with metering, IT enablement and automation etc., is equally important to ensure supply of adequate power with desired quality and reliability. For this purpose also, Government of India has been providing financial assistance to the states under Deen Dayal Upadhyaya Gram Jyoti Yojana (DDUGJY) and Integrated Power Development Scheme (IPDS) for rural and urban areas respectively. Projects worth Rs. 1,40,000 Crore have been rolled out under these schemes. Under these schemes, creation of 1204 nos. of new sub-stations, augmentation of capacity in 1601 nos. existing sub-stations, erection of 1,61,101 nos. new distribution transformers, 1,11,734 Kms of HT lines and 98028 Kms of LT line has been completed. System strengthening works under these schemes coupled with reforms adopted under Ujwal DISCOM Assurance Yojana (UDAY) would facilitate 24x7 quality and reliable power supply for all in a sustainable manner. UDAY interventions have resulted in (i) reduction in Aggregate Technical and Commercial Losses (AT&C) losses from 20.77 per cent to 18.72 per cent (ii) reduction in ACS-ARR (Average Cost of Supply – Average Revenue Realisation) gap from 60 paisa/unit to 17 paisa/unit (iii) savings on interest cost of about Rs 31,800 crores to utilities/states and reduction in losses from Rs 51575 crore to Rs 15132 crore. NTPC and other major Gencos need to be congratulated for keeping the power purchase costs almost constant in spite of an increase in the cost of coal, freight, and other costs.

The initiatives of the Government have helped our country in achieving 24th rank in 2018 on the World Bank's Ease of Getting Electricity in the world as against 111th rank in 2014. This is a quantum leap and shows the result-oriented approach of the Government.

At the back end of the power value chain, we have achieved 'One Nation One Grid'. The pace of grid construction has been enhanced to an average of 24908 Kms per year in the last four and half years from an average of 4385 Kms in previous years. This ensures power transfers across the country. About 2.96 Lakh MVA transformation capacity has been added during the years 2014-18. Tariff based Competitive Bidding has brought in transparency and efficiency in the system.

The huge addition in the consumer base at the rate of one lakh per day, coupled with growth in the economy has meant that our electricity demand has been growing at the rate of more than 10 per cent in these months. The change we are making is unparalleled in scale. We have more to do. But our vision is clear and our determination is firm. Our estimates are that the number of households left would be less than 50 lakhs. At this rate, almost 50 more days required to achieve 100 per cent household electrification. If we do it faster, fewer days are required to achieve the goal. The world has looked on our progress with amazement and admiration. The International Energy Agency has called it one of the greatest success stories of the year.

In order to meet the growing demand for electricity in the country which is expected to increase further, increasing the generation capacity is important. During the last 4 years, the total installed capacity has increased by 1 Lakh MW. This has helped in wiping out energy deficit from 4.2 per cent to almost zero at 0.7 per cent. India has for the first time become an exporter of electricity after meeting its internal demand. We have helped our neighbours like Nepal, Bangladesh, and Myanmar by exporting 7203 MUs of electricity.

In order to make our electricity clean and green, we have placed a roadmap to achieve 175 GW capacity in the renewable energy sector by 2022, which includes 100 GW of solar power and 60 GW of wind power. The overall installed capacity of renewable energy has been more than doubled in the last four and half years – from 34,000 MW to 72,000 MW, solar capacity increased 8 times in the last 4 years. We are on the way to achieve our commitment to international fora.

While we continue to increase our capabilities for power generation, we recognise the need to explore avenues that promote energy efficiency. Concerted efforts are being made to efficiently use the energy in the demand side through various innovative and visionary policy measures. UJALA, star labelling programme, energy conservation building code, energy efficiency measures through Perform, Achieve, and Trade (PAT) are few initiatives in this area. The first cycle of the PAT for industry achieved savings of more than 8.6 million tonnes of oil equivalent which is almost 1.23 per cent of primary energy supply of India. The second cycle is estimated to achieve even higher savings.

(The author is Minister of State (Independent Charge) for Power and New & Renewable Energy. The views expressed are strictly personal)

R.K. Singh

R.K. Singh

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