Fact Check

Are Fears About a Power Crisis Justified?

STORY

Three years of Modi govt: Not all is well with India’s power sector
The Hindustan Times, June 12, 2017

The article criticises the three-year performance of the government in the power sector, although it lauds some of the important schemes launched in this period.

THE PROBLEM

On the one hand, the article mentions the coverage and achievements under a few key schemes in the power sector and lauds the efforts made. On the other, it claims that “all is not well”, and predicts an adverse turn of events for India’s power generation capacity in meeting electricity demand in the near future. This is despite India’s status today as a power-surplus state. However, from the onset, “Power for All” was not a short-term initiative. It is a work in progress. Besides, becoming a power-surplus nation and pushing for rural electrification are efforts in the right direction. The power sector is no longer confined to the conventional energy sector. Capacity-building in new and renewable sources of power is also necessary and is being done. A closer look at all the developments in the sector in the last three years will provide a clearer picture.

THE FACTS

Let us check out some of the major schemes in the power sector:

Deen Dayal Upadhyaya Gram Jyoti Yojana (DDUGJY)

  • Out of 5,97,464 census villages, 5,93,601 villages (99.3%) have been electrified.
  • Out of a target of 18,452 unelectrified villages, 13,630 villages have been electrified since April 2015 and the remaining villages will be electrified by May 2018.
  • GARV-II App, launched on December 20, 2016, tracks progress on household electrification and is meant to close the gap between house and village electrification.

UDAY (Ujwal DISCOM Assurance Yojana)

  • UDAY Bonds worth Rs 2.32 lakh crore have already been issued, with savings of nearly Rs 12,000 crore for DISCOMs (distribution companies).
  • Mizoram became the 27th state to join UDAY.

Energy Efficiency Schemes

  • Under the UJALA (Unnat Jyoti by Affordable Electricity for All) scheme, more than 23 crore LED bulbs have been distributed. It helped in saving Rs 12,400 crore in electricity bills, and reduced carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions by over 2.5 crore tonnes annually.
  • Under the Street Lighting National Programme (SLNP), over 21 lakh conventional streetlights have been replaced with LED lights across the country. This has resulted in annual energy savings of 295 million units kWh and a reduction of 2.3 lakh tonnes of CO2.

New & Renewable Energy

  • 2016-17 saw the lowest tariffs in both solar (Rs 2.44) and wind (Rs 3.46) energy.
  • This is also the first year when net capacity addition of renewable energy was higher than that conventional energy.
  • The power ministry has set itself a target of achieving 175 GW of renewable power by 2022.

Other Major Developments

  • India’s ranking in ‘Ease of Getting Electricity’ (World Bank) rose from 99 in 2015 to 26 in 2017.
  • India has turned around from a net importer of electricity to a net exporter for the first time.
  • There has been a 9.2 crore tonne increase in production of coal in the three years since 2014. This increase took about seven years before 2014. This has led to a reduction in coal imports and forex savings worth Rs 25,900 crore.
  • Some of the apps launched in the past year include: URJA, to check the electricity situation in urban areas as well as the progress of the Integrated Power Development Scheme (IPDS); TARANG, to track transmission projects; and URJA MITRA, for power-cut information. All the apps can be downloaded by simply giving a missed call to the number 18002003004.

The developments and initiatives stated above, if considered in detail, tend to show a paradigm shift in the power sector that has occurred over the last three years. Such a transformation of the sector would appear to belie apprehensions about a looming power crisis in India in the near future. Being a nation with surplus electricity production will help generate revenue. It will also help bring down power tariffs and provide respite to all sections of society. Electrification in rural areas through DDUGJY and in urban areas through IPDS will ensure that the power capacity is effectively utilised in the years to come. Ensuring that energy is effectively utilised is as essential as its availability. Schemes like UJALA and SLNP have been able to generate savings for consumers. At the same time, these have reduced carbon dioxide emissions to a large extent.

The article argues that conventional power production is taking a hit, which is far from the truth, considering the manifold increase in coal production. India is still largely dependent on conventional sources for its energy needs. Yet, there need to be concerted efforts to enhance new and renewable energy production. Keeping this in view, a target of achieving 175 GW of renewable power by 2022 has been set. Initiatives like URJA MITRA and TARANG, along with others, ensure that transparency is maintained all the way from allocation to distribution. Therefore, saying that “all is not well” in India’s power sector may sound unduly hasty and short-sighted.

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