India’s dismal record in extending electrification to all villages in India stood as a major challenge when Narendra Modi took office as India’s Prime Minister in 2014.
The legacy of the power ministry was in shambles. Power project implementation had come down to a crawl as the coal scam took centre stage, towards the end of the UPA-II regime. Power transmission and distribution required urgent modernisation, along with expansion into rural India, and modernisation and expansion of sub-station network.
The PM handpicked Piyush Goyal to head the power ministry and gave him a free hand to revive the coal mining sector, and expand the power generation and distribution capacity in India. Ambitious targets were set up, complete with power plans to reach all villages by May 2018.
The ‘internal’ target set by the Department of Rural Electrification for meeting the target was May 2017. This target will surely be missed; but will PM’s target of electrifying all villages by May 2018 stand?
The Union Minister for Power, Piyush Goyal gave a full update to members of Parliament on the exact status and when the project to bring electricity to every village would be realised.
As on March 31, 2015, 18,452 villages remained unelectrified. The government has since covered 12,661 villages, with 5,791 villages still remaining.
Challenges to ‘Power for All’ Campaign
According to Piyush Goyal, certain states have performed exceptionally well in meeting and even exceeding the electrification targets, while many others have been lagging behind. The main reasons attributed as challenges for meeting the target have been, the prevalence of left extremism and difficult terrain.
The states that have delivered an exceptional performance are Uttar Pradesh and Rajasthan. Both have almost all villages electrified. The states that are lagging behind are as under.
Jharkhand heads the list of laggard states and is followed by Odisha and Bihar, respectively. Close to 3,000 villages remain unelectrified due to left extremism and cover parts of Jharkhand, Bihar and Chhattisgarh.
Difficult terrain and extreme weather conditions hamper implementation in states like Jammu and Kashmir, Meghalaya and parts of Bihar, thus reducing the time available for active work to few months in a year. But the power ministry remains confident of meeting the target by the end of 2017, well ahead of the May 2018 target set by the PM.
Beyond Rural Electrification, Government Has Several Other Ambitious Plans Under Way
For Rural Areas –
The government launched the ‘Deendayal Upadhyaya Gram Jyoti Yojana (DDUGJY)’ scheme. The initiative separates the agriculture feeder lines from the non-agriculture. This will help in ensuring power distribution more efficiently and make it available at critical times for each segment.
Obsolete sub-station distribution station, feeder lines, etc., will be upgraded and metering provided at distribution transformers, feeder junctions and at the consumer end. This will help in monitoring and in generating higher revenue collection.
For Urban Areas –
Integrated Power Development Scheme (IPDS) launched to upgrade the transformer and distribution infrastructure, including feeder lines and sub-stations, to improve distribution efficiency.
Introducing tamper-proof metering at distribution points and at consumer end to improve monitoring and revenue collection. The IPDS initiative aims to introduce IT in a big way to integrate and optimise distribution efficiency of electricity.
Launch of Power System Development Fund (PSDF) –
The primary purposes of the fund would be:
- To fund strategic transmission lines;
- To fund modernisation of transmission infrastructure for improving distribution efficiency; and
- To improve voltage stability through introduction of shunt capacitors and related equipment.
‘Unnat Jyoti’, affordable LEDs for all (UJALA). The scheme aims to save 100 billion kWs of electricity every year, resulting in 20,000 MW of power being made available for use in other sectors. Under this initiative, the government plans to replace 77 crore incandescent bulbs with LED bulbs. The government has already distributed 21.8 crore LED bulbs, 13.37 lakh tube lights and 5.36 lakh energy-efficient fans.
Street Lighting National Programme (SLNP). The initiative aims to save 9 billion kWs of electricity by replacing existing street lamps with LED street lights. 18.3 lakh street lights have already been replaced and the initiative is likely to ensure 1,500 MW of power will be available for other sectors.
The initiatives launched are commendable and necessary. The government has demonstrated its earnestness in introducing power saving initiatives; expanding power generation and distribution capacity.
The government now needs to push for meeting the rural electrification target, while reducing the cost of power to consumers by increasing capacity and efficiency.