Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi tweeted on April, 28, 2018, “We fulfilled a commitment due to which the lives of several Indians will be transformed forever. I am delighted that every single village of India now has access to electricity.” This tweet came 12 days before the given deadline for completion of electrification of all Indian villages. When we discuss India’s rural electrification, there is a significant rise in connectivity infrastructure and in execution of new connectivity in the last decade. Between 2005 and 2014, around 1,082,280 villages were connected to grids and about 19 million rural houses were given access to electricity. In 2014, the total count of villages that required electricity was approximately 18,452. The NDA government has also launched the
‘Deendayal Upadhyaya Grameen Jyoti Yojana’ that aims to intensify the process rural electrification. Interestingly, the earlier UPA government was estimated to connect around 12,030 villages every year whereas only 4,842 villages were connected with the grid per year in case of the present NDA government. Such statistics question the statement given by the Prime Minister.
What is 100% electrification?
When it is said that a village is receiving 100% electricity or is electrified completely there can be two aspects that should be considered. Firstly, is the village entirely electrified? Secondly, it must be verified whether all households, streetlights and other public places electrified?
The first which is the electrification of villages can be considered complete soon after the villages are equipped with transmission wires and are connected to grids. This ensures that electricity can seamlessly flow into the villages. But that development can never be taken to guarantee that all village households and public places are receiving electricity.
According to the Union Power Ministry, a village is considered as completely electrified if 10% of its houses, public places and streets have uninterrupted flow of electricity. Now, the flow can be considered for a time frame of about six hours at a stretch since providing electricity for 24 hours is still not feasible in many regions. This is the reason why about 31 million Indian households are yet to receive electricity even after complete electrification of all the villages across India.
Electricity Generation and Transmission
Import of Coal for Electricity
Electricity is generally produced from different sources like coal, water, wind, solar, biomass, etc. Although India has been the third largest producer of coal it still imports sizeable quantities of coal. This hinders the production of electricity. Indu Bhusan Chakraborty, Vice President-Commercial, IPCL, told BE, “India will be forced to keep importing coal, simply because several Indian power plants had been designed to run on foreign coal. We don’t need to import coal from anywhere in the world and have enough domestic reserves to be self-sufficient.
But even though the country had reduced its coal imports in the past three years, it could not eliminate importing completely, as many new power plants in India were built to generate electricity with more efficient, higher-calorific value, low ash imported coal. Also, India cannot be completely self-sufficient and depend solely on its own coal sources because power plants having approximately 83,100 MWs of coal-based thermal power has been set up in this country which is either partially or fully dependent on imported coal.”
Quantum of power transmitted
A major issue faced by the government regarding transmission of electricity is insufficient infrastructure and an inferior distribution system. The government has adequate quantity of electricity to supply it to its rural areas. With the last village which is Leisang in Manipur connected to transmission wires and power grids, it has been ensured that electricity will flow seamlessly to every corner of the country. But delivering power in an uninterrupted manner is not as easy it may appear to be. Chakraborty added, “It is difficult to judge exactly how much of the generated electricity is being transmitted to the villages. However we can somehow calculate it using another mechanism related to transmission of electricity called ‘schedule’ of each cluster of geographical areas. The schedule which is calculated for each of village cluster can be equated by summation method to know how much electricity is being transmitted to rural segments.”
Supplying continuous power needs several measures along with the consent of villagers as well. Certain villages are said to receive electricity free of cost but apart from that, villagers generally aren’t fond of paying the actual charges per unit. They prefer paying a fixed amount of money for the electricity provided to them. It is very difficult for the whole persuasion to work successfully between the government and villagers and that hampers continuous flow of electricity.
Schemes and policies by the government
There are different schemes and policies that are initiated by the government for the development of the power sector:
lThe Deendayal Upadhyaya Gram Jyoti Yojana (DDUGJY) is a scheme that provides for separation of agriculture and non-agriculture feeders; strengthening and augmentation of sub-transmission and distribution infrastructure in rural areas including metering at distribution transformers, feeders and consumers end; and rural electrification.
l A state specific action plan is being prepared for providing 24X7 power for everyone. This counters the problems of electricity generation, transmission and distribution. ‘24X7 Power for All’ documents have been signed for 35 States/UT.
lA revised tariff policy was also developed and notified by the Ministry of Power with its major focus being the ‘4 Es’ i.e. electricity for all, efficiency to ensure affordable tariffs, environment for a sustainable future, ease of doing business to attract investments and ensure financial viability.
lLaunching of Integrated Power Development Scheme (IPDS) for the urban areas which provides for strengthening of sub-transmission and distribution networks in urban areas; metering of distribution transformers/feeders/consumers in urban areas; and IT enablement of distribution sector and strengthening of distribution network.