Survey ready to assess the success of government power schemes

New Delhi The Union Power Ministry plans to conduct a socioeconomic survey on universal access to electricity by a third party agency, with an aim to capture the improvements made by these projects.

Economists say there is a strong link between poverty alleviation and the spread of electricity use.

The survey will focus on Pradhan Mantri Sahaj Bijli Har Ghar Yojana (Saubhagya) and Deen Dayal Upadhyaya Gram Jyoti Yojana (DDUGJY), two government officials apprised of the schemes.

While the DDUGJY ensured electrification of villages, Saubhagya resulted in the world’s largest household electrification campaign, with the scheme funding the cost of last-mile connectivity to ‘willing households’. It was launched in 2017 by Prime Minister Narendra Modi. The two schemes resulted in an increase in the demand for electricity. “The survey will be done by a professional agency and monitoring will be done by the Union Ministry of Power. The scheme is to capture the data to ascertain the improvement in the lives of the beneficiaries,” said one of the two persons mentioned above, requesting anonymity.

Electricity has been provided to all 597,464 census villages in India as on 28 April 2018 through DDUGJY which includes strengthening of feeder separation, sub-transmission and distribution networks, metering at all levels and installation of micro grid and off-grid distribution networks . In 1950 only 3,000 Indian villages had electricity.

The success of DDUGJY set the stage for Saubhagya to provide the framework through which the government seeks to reduce fossil fuel imports and meet its climate change commitments.

Questions emailed to the spokesperson of the Ministry of Power on June 2 remained unanswered till press time.

“Schemes like Saubhagya have done quite well in terms of connecting people to the grid and providing access to electricity. However, the actual implementation is something that may differ from state to state as they are the ones implementing the schemes on the ground,” said Vikram V., Vice President and Sector Head, Corporate Ratings, ICRA.

He said that the implementation of the schemes depends on the financial position and debt position of the discoms of the state. “Though steps have been taken to clear the dues of discoms, they have not declined as expected. The better financial position of the discoms will help in better implementation of schemes in this sector.”

The survey comes in the backdrop of a fall in India’s electricity demand during the second Covid-19 wave, with peak power demand touching a record 210 gigawatts (GW) on June 9. According to the Central Electricity Authority, the country’s electricity requirement will be 817GW by 2030.

“All India power demand during the quarter (Q1 FY23) was up 18.6% year-on-year and peak demand of 216GW was up by 6.3% year-on-year. The daily peak power demand for Q1FY23 averaged 196GW (versus 187GW in Q4 FY22),” ICICI Securities Ltd wrote in its July 10 report.

According to the Mint report, the government will seek to the power sector as part of its Vision 2047 to meet the increased demand for energy to fuel economic growth, while ensuring access to cost-competitive, reliable and clean electricity. An ambitious plan is in the making.

This includes reforming the corporate governance practices of state-owned power distribution companies (discoms), making tariffs effective, reducing cross subsidies and reducing the power purchase agreement period to less than 25 years.

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