Electricity is a key element in modern day life. Right from powering industrial units and running irrigation pumps to charging your mobile phone – electricity does it all. Access to reliable and affordable energy increases the ease of living and generates employment. It powers the development of the country. It is a prerequisite to digital connectivity in rural India, thereby opening new vistas for the people hitherto unconnected to the outer world.
In the past four and a half year the Government has brought about a transformational change in the Power Sector.
The past four and a half years, have seen unprecedented pace of infrastructure creation in every segment – be it power generation, transmission or distribution. Regulatory framework is being reformed with a new Tariff Policy and amendments to the Electricity Act. In sum, the Indian power sector has undergone a paradigm change.
The first – the primary requirement was availability. Right since independence the country had to live with shortages. In the past four and a half years, we have add3ed more than one lakh megawatts of new generation capacity. Energy deficit has been brought down from 4.2 per cent to almost zero. India has become an exporter of electricity – exporting electricity to Nepal and Bangladesh.
In the past four years we have added almost one lakh circuit kilometers to the inter-state transmission capacity – connecting the entire nation to one grid. Now, for the first time we have One Nation- One Grid- the entire network operating on one frequency. Power can be transferred seamlessly fro one corner of the country to another. Power generated in Himachal Pradesh can be transmitted to Tamil Nadu and power generated in Assam can be transferred to Maharashtra or vice versa.
Our Government decided to connect every village where electricity had not reached. The Prime Minister announced from the ramparts of the Red Fort on 15th August, 2015 that every village which did not have access to electricity will be connected within a thousand days. The States reported that power had not reached in 18452 villages even seven decades after independence. We connected these villages in less than 1000 days. A major landmark to universal access to electricity was crossed when our country achieved 100 per cent village electrification on 28th April, 2018.
The challenges involved in completing this task 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 mobilization of manpower for execution of works required determination and perseverance. The difficulty level kept on increasing as the work progressed further. About 350 villages located in remote and difficult terrains in Arunachal Pradesh, J&K, Meghalaya and Manipur required head loading of materials and trekking up to 10 days. Materials in some villages of J&K and Arunachal Pradesh had to e transported by helicopter. In 2762 villages, extending grid network was not feasible due to remote and inaccessible locations, solar based standalone systems were provided. Enormous challenges were confronted in electrification of 7614 Left Wing Extremism affected villages in Bihar, Jharkhand, Chhattisgarh, Madhya Pradesh and Odisha.
To achieve this feat, extensive infrastructure was created under DDUGJY (as shown in Table – 1). Special focus as on feeder separation (rural households and agricultural) and strengthening of sub-transmission and distribution all levels in rural areas. Hundreds of thousand kilometers of new lines were laid and lakhs of distribution transformers were installed.
The electrification of these remaining villages has paved the path for their socio-economic growth. This program has also set an example of effective cooperative federalism wherein Union Government, State Governments, Distribution companies an administration synergized their efforts for common goal.
The next step was to light up every household. The Prime Minister launched the ‘Pradhan Mantri Sahaj Bijli Har Ghar Yojana’ – Saubhagya in Sept. 2017 with the aim to achieve universal household electrification. Achievement of this within targeted timeline of 31st 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.
More than 2.50 crore households have already been electrified under Saubhagya? That is more than two South Africa put together… and India has electrified these many households in a record time of just 15 months. This pace and scale of transition is such as has not been witnessed anywhere in the world. At its peak, we were lighting up an average of a hundred thousand houses every day. The International Energy Agency called India’s electrification journey as one of the greatest success stories of the Year – 2018.
Hardly 4 lakh odd households are now remaining and within the next few weeks, every household of the country will have an electricity connection. No country has witnessed anything on such a scale in such a short span of time. The happiness on the face of the people when their houses are lighted up is something to be seen.
In addition to providing last mile connectivity in rural areas, the Government launched Integrated Power Development Scheme (IPDS0 with an aim to strengthen power infrastructure in urban areas. The focus areas of IPDS are-
- Strengthening of sub-transmission and distribution network in the urban areas
- Metering of distribution transformers / feeders/ consumers in the urban areas
- IT enablement and automation of distribution sector
The infrastructure created under IPDS during the last four and a half years (Table 2) is equally important to ensure supply of adequate power with desired quality and reliability.
The huge addition in the consumer base at the rate of one lakh households 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 the past months.
While India needs to develop, it has to do so in a responsible way. We owe our future generations a green and clean planet. This is the reason India is in the process of changing its energy mix. To make our electricity clean and green, we have developed 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 a half years – from 34,000 MW to 75,000 MW, solar capacity increased 8 times in last 4 years. Today, India stands at 5o position in the world in installed solar capacity, at 4th position in installed wind capacity and at 5o position in over all renewable energy (installed capacity). We are on the way to achieve our commitments.
While we continue to increase our capacities for power generation, we recognize the need to explore avenues that promote energy efficiency. A number of innovative and visionary policy measures have been taken in this field. Household LED bulb distribution program UJALA and SLNP (Streetlight National Project) for replacing conventional streetlights with smart and energy efficient LED street lights have saved billions of unit electricity per year (Table -4).
In addition to these, Star Labeling program, Energy Conservation Building Code and energy efficiency measures through Perform, Achieve and Trade (PAT) are also important initiatives in the field of energy efficiency. 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 percent of primary energy supply of India. The second cycle is estimate to achieve even higher savings.
A new Tariff Policy is being finalized. It contains several consumer friendly provisions to ensure reliable and 24×7 supply of power. This policy makes it mandatory to provides reliable and 24×7 power supply for all from 1st April, 2019. If a power outage occurs without a valid reason (e.g. for scheduled maintenance or disruption due to natural calamity), the concerned power distribution company (DISCOM) well face penalties. This would effectively put an end to gratuitous load shedding by DISCOMs.
Another futuristic area we are working on is – Smart Electricity Meters. We have chalked out a strategy to replace al electricity meters in the country with Smart Meters within a period of 3 years. A beginning has already been made with the installation of over 50 thousands Smart Meters in MDMC area. This will revolutionize the power sector by way of reduced AT&C losses, better health of DISCOMs, incentivisation of energy conservation and ease of bill payments etc. Further, it will generate skilled employment for the youth.
Electrical vehicles (EVs) are another major emerging area we are focusing on. The Government has launched the National E–Mobility programme to promote electric vehicles in a big way. Creation of extensive charging infrastructure is a prerequisite for large scale adoption of EVs. The Ministry of Power is creating an enabling regulatory framework for rapid expansion of charging and storage infrastructure.
Our country jumped to 24th rank in 2018 on 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. Still we have more to do …. But our vision is clear and our determination is firm. We are committed to an energized India – a prosperous India.