Saturday, April 16, 2016

Rapid pace of Rural Electrification of 18,452 villages

In months that I have been tracking this particular news it is heartening to know that an entire team of Power Ministry is working extremely hard to ensure no village remains without electricity. The PM Modi had announced all remaining 18,452 villages to get electricity in 1000 days since Aug 2014.

Since then the pace at which this is being achieved is unprecedented in the history of independent India. There are several villages where electricity was only dreamt of. To see an electric pole or wires transmitting electricity was a distant dream. As of April 2016 - 7,146 villages are electrified. The govt is extremely serious about this issue and this can be just gauged by the fact that the Power Minister - Piyush Goyal has opened a real Android/iphone app to track this and has made public all the field engineers in charge of every village so that they could be contacted right away for any issues. The dashboard keeps getting updated as the implementation progresses.

However, electrification doesn't mean 24 hour electricity.  The intention is once you have the grid to every village - it is only a matter of time that the grid can be supplied with uninterrupted electricity. If one looks at the progress the government has  - 1) Already achieved annual goal of 5000MW of Solar energy 2) Reduced Coal import by Rs.28,000 Crore because of record coal production through transparent mechanism. 3) ensured that 66 out of 100 coal plants had no coal at all before 2014 - but no plant today faces any coal shortage.

There are villages that are also provided electricity through renewable sources and are currently off grid.

In short, until 2014 because of the coal scam during the UPA II government electricity generation through coal was drastically reduced; mining coal came to a halt; country was importing high amount of coal causing enough load on fiscal deficit. These no longer exist. On the contrary, India has stopped coal imports this year completely (Source)

Should India celebrate then? No, it is too soon. If we don't see electricity cuts for 2 successive years we would have achieved something unthinkable since Independence.

Here's a reality check of 7000 villages being electrified on NDTV. Interestingly, 85% of villages in UP are now electrified.

There are numerous such success stories on how life is changing for these villages where electricity is reached

In Saharanpur there was no electricity since independence. It is amazing to see how life has changed for people now. Here's the article published in Navbharat times

The eastern states - Bihar, Odisha, Arunachal Pradesh, Jharkhand, Assam - are having the highest number of unelectrified villages after Uttar Pradesh in the north. The key to electrification is how quickly government can electrify these.

Earlier, a village was considered electrified if its public places and 10% of its households have electricity. This criteria has been now changed and the new field officers - Gram Vidyut Abhiyantas (GVA) verifying that the entire village is electrified. The approach is to not use state government's data alone, which is found to be error prone. These GVA's update the dashboard and make it public to everyone as they notice the progress.

"Hindu"(Source) newspaper reported that these GVA's numbers show discrepancy as well - but out of 7000 villages only 30 could not be guaranteed as "electrified" even though dashboard shows it. This is still a very low error rate compared to 7000 villages.

There cannot be any iota of doubt with the fact that the government is so serious about bringing in the transformation of lives by electrifying villages.  The target now is 3074 villages to be electrified through off grid mainly because of geographic barriers and 438 villages by the state governments themselves. If this pace continues surely within a year all villages will be electrified.

Building the infrastructure to supply electricity is one good thing, however, the best thing that can happen is round the clock electricity without any load shedding. Is the government really doing enough on this? The answer is mixed bag. However, if the electricity generation supply surpasses the demand it will be a breakthrough.

No comments: