Rural Electrification: Energising Villages

“It is home where he has opportunities to grow physically, mentally, intellectually and spiritually. Right to shelter, therefore, includes adequate living space, safe and decent structure, clean and decent surroundings, sufficient light, pure air and water, electricity, sanitation and other civic amenities like roads etc. …….” - — Chameli Singh Vs State of UP (1996)-2 SCC 549 - Aqeel Ahmad

Electricity is termed as the fundamental ‘Right’ to life and liberty of every Indian citizen as per Article-21 of Constitution of India …!

Access to electricity is necessary for modern economic & overall social development of the country. Electricity opens the new avenues of technologies that promote education, public health and mass communication. Without electricity, communities are unable to participate in the benefits of modern advances and may left isolate, literally in the dark. Electricity is a neat and clean, superior form of energy than heat and easy to transport and storage with comparatively lesser losses. It may generate heat, turn a motor and may produce efficient lighting. India is agriculture based country, more than 70% of India lives in villages, and therefore, ‘Rural Electrification’ is a key step in the direction to uplift the quality of life of common man:

– To ensure rapid economic development by providing electricity as an input for productive uses in agriculture, rural industries, etc. It will also reduce the mass migration to our metros or urban areas.
– To improve the quality of life of the rural people by supplying electricity for lighting of rural areas etc.

Common man expectations are as follows from electricity providing agency i.e. DISCOM:

• Easy accessibility
• Round the clock availability
• Reliability without frequent black-outs
• Affordability- reasonable within common man’s reach or budget
• Quality without brown-outs and fluctuations

According to our Prime Minister on August 15, 2015 from Red Fort, “It is now the solemn pledge of ‘Team India’ of 125 crore countrymen that the target of providing electric poles, electric wires and electricity to these 18,500 villages would be achieved within next 1000 days”.

Young India is one of the strongest emerging economies of the world today. Emerging economy means ‘unquenchable’ thirst for electricity of approximately 1,337,332,348 people of India, right now, with a population growth of 1.2% (2016). India is the fifth largest country in the world as far as power production is concerned as shown in the chart below.

(Source: CIA World Fact Book website, 2014)

According to Ministry of Power (MoP), at present, all India installed capacity is 314642.32 MW of power stations including thermal, hydroelectric, nuclear and renewable energy sources (RES), whereas RES covers small hydro power(<25KW), wind power, Bio-mass and Solar Power (PV).

Renewable Energy Production in 2016-17

(Source: Ministry of Power)

The most significant year was 2015-16, so far 23,976 MW highest ever power capacity addition,28,115 CKM highest ever increase Transmission line, 1,28,403 MVA highest ever increase in Power Sub Station (PSS), 7108 villages electrified in 2015 out of 18,500 un-electrified villages (UEV) with 2.1% lowest ever energy deficit, according to MOP, India. Now, let us see the other side during the Five-Year planning i.e. year 2012-17, the gap between supply and demand was 46.9%, so approximately, every year we need to add much more than what we are doing, still more than one third of our population remains under dark every day during peak hours.

Comparison of World’s Per Capita Power Consumption

(Source: CIA World Fact Book, 2014)

(Source: CIA World Fact Book, 2014)

In last two years, India’s per capita consumption got almost doubled i.e. 1007 KWh, due to improvements in middle class power consumption but still we are nowhere on global ranking as shown above; might be little better than our Indian sub-continent neighbours like Sri Lanka, Pakistan or Bangladesh. India suffers from chronic energy poverty. More than 300 million people have no access to electricity, yet. If we consider the hard fact that 75% rural population, so far, connected to grid, get less than 5-6 hours of electricity every day, then more than 750 million people are still ‘Power Poor’. We use electricity for practically for all applications. Apart from lighting, cooling & heating, electricity is now being used for cooking as well i.e. induction & microwave cooking range. In transport sector also, there is shift towards electricity from conventional fossil fuels in form of electric car, auto and two wheelers to reduce pollution level.

Genesis of Rural Electrification in India

1. Stage I : Early Fifties 45,000 villages were covered.
2. Stage II: More than 2 lacs villages were covered and more than 1 crore pump sets were energised in sixtees.
3. Stage III: During Eighties 2.20 lacs villages covered, 43 lacs pump sets were energised
4. Stage-IV: During Nineties 41000 villages were covered only due to serious financial constraints in SEBs
5. Stage-V: Minimum Needs Program- Started in Vth plan but discontinued in 2004-05 due to lack of response from states
6. Stage-VI: Kutir Jyoti Program-Initiated in 1988-89 71.7 lacs BPL were given connection, later merged with AREP in 2004 later in RGGVY
a. Pradhan Mantri Gramoday Yojna- Launched in 2000-01, discontinued in 2005.
b. Accelerated Rural Electrification Programme (AREP) –Launched in 2002
7. Stage-VII: Rajiv Gandhi Gramin Vidyut Yojna (RGGVY): Major objectives were
a. Electrifying all villages and habitations.
b. Providing access to electricity to all rural households.
c. Giving Electricity Connection to Below Poverty Line (BPL) families free of charge
d. Decentralized Distributed Generations- Electrification of villages which are not connected to grid are taken in this project by utilizing renewable energy, major features are as follows
• Projects can be based on conventional or renewable sources
• REC to be the Nodal Agency
• Ownership with State Governments
• Implementing agencies would be SREDAs / Depts dealing with renewable / state utilities / CPSUs
• Projects will be approved and monitored by Monitoring Committee of MoP
• With ‘Stand Alone- for single house’ and ‘Micro Grid- for group of houses in villages’ where normal grid access is not available
8. Stage-VIII: Deen Dayal Upadhaye Gram Jyoti Yojna (DDUGJY)- It is extension of RGGVY with following additions like
1. Separation of Agriculture and Non-Agriculture feeders.
2. Strengthening of ST&D infrastructure
3. Provide power to BPL connections.

It will not only facilitate the judicious rostering of power supply to agriculture & non-agriculture consumers but will also be in line with Government of India policy to provide 24x7x365 power supply to all along with fixed hours of supply to agriculture. This will be of great help in bringing down the cost of agriculture operations to the farmers and saving in foreign exchange due to decreased diesel consumption.

Power Generation Problems

Total electricity generated (314642.32MW) in India, in the year 2016-17 as follows:

1. Hydroelectric Power (44189.43 MW)-14.04%
2. Thermal Power (214654.89 MW) -68.22%
3. Nuclear Power (5780.00 MW)-1.83%
4. Renewable Energy (50018.00MW)-15.8%

Hydroelectric Power (14.04%): Hydro takes a back seat, it was 40% during eighties, though it is cheapest to produce but day by day its production is falling due to unpredictable weather conditions. Besides, its initial cost is high and it takes 5-10 years to complete a project. It is common in hilly regions of the country but the catastrophe of 2013 in the Uttarakhand is still alive in the minds of people. Political interference in rehabilitation of masses due to the construction of dams is also a serious problem apart from several clearances like forest, environment and pollution control department.

Thermal Power: Thermal power generation is highest (68.22%) in the country from fossil fuels. Among the fossil fuels coal and gas are two major components. Coal available in India is not sufficient enough to feed the existing thermal power plants, in addition to the poor quality due to low calorific value and high ash contents. That’s why, we need to import quality coal from Australia. On the other hand, gas available is also not sufficient to meet the future demand.

Nuclear Power (1.83%): It is also not suitable for us. Its raw material and technology are imported. There are serious dangers in handling ‘’left-over” of nuclear fuel after processing. We did not forget the Chernobyl, Russia and Japan’s recent nuclear power house cases. Chernobyl caused the death of more than 200,000 persons, according to a report. Such incidents in densely populated India may cause havoc.

Renewable Power (15%): Its production increased dramatically in recent years in India too from few MW in 2009-10 to 9,000 MW in 2016-17. Inspite of that, China (43.5GW) and Germany (39.7GW) are far-far ahead than us (9.02GW), as far as renewable energy is concerned. Germany has almost 50% of its requirements from solar while China is now number one country in the world as far solar power production is concerned. The Govt has set a prestigious target for solar power i.e.100 GW by 2022 (60 GW Utility scale and 40 GW Roof top) in July 2015, it is a herculean task to achieve. Adani power has planned to establish a 1 GW solar plant in Tamil Nadu, out of which 765 MW already commissioned and connected to grid, it is a ‘true’ engineering marvel, in spite of unprecedented rainy season and flood in Tamil Nadu. The 150MW Andrasol Solar power station is a commercial concentrated power plant located in Spain. The power plant uses molten salt to store solar power energy. Solar power storage is the biggest challenge now. A technical breakthrough in the problem will provide the giant leap to this emerging technology and a viable solution of neat and clean energy.

Major Challenges of Rural Electrification

– Infrastructure projects need huge initial investments with slow returns, that’s why PPP model was difficult to implement.
– High cost per unit and difficult recovery of cost of operations
– Sub-optimal and risky investment
– Sustainability
– Lack of clear vision for rural electrification upto the beginning of 21st century. Major push for rural electrification was in National Electric Policy 2005 onwards.
– Initially, rural electrification was assigned to state electricity boards (SEB), which were in mess and bad financial health.
– Lack of co-ordination of fund management between central and state governments due to socio-political and geographical reasons.
– Installation, erection, commissioning to operation and maintenance were under SEBs, which were suffering acute man-power shortage.
– Impact of environmental regulations

Ministry of Power developed a mobile app ‘Garv’ to monitor the development of rural electrification by us, as a step to enhance transparency in the administration.

Possible Remedies & Solutions

Energy Conserved, Energy Produced: The potential for energy saving during peak hours was 9,240 MW as estimated in the year 2000-01.The need for efficient use of resources, energy conservation assume significance and must be an integral part of the policy tools, consequently, Energy Conservation Act 2001 passed on October 1,2001 with following key features as-

Specify the norms for processes and energy consumption standards for any equipment, appliances which consume, generate, transmits or supplies energy. Later some amendments were introduced to it. It was the solid foundation for Electricity act 2003, 2005 and later on.

Mix of Renewable & Conventional Energy: Power For All (PFA) i.e. supply of power 24x7x365 program is running in the country since 2006-07. Therefore, average power availability improved all over the country, as it is obvious from the per capita power consumption just got almost double in a span of less than five years in India. We have to focus more on renewable energy production but we can’t afford to ignore other conventional sources like hydro, thermal and nuclear due to the vast gap between supply and demand.

Land availability for power substations (PSS), transmission & distribution lines at a reasonable price is very important in the power sector. The bench of Honourable Justice A K Sikri & Justice R. Banumathi of Supreme Court gave a vital verdict on Dec14, 2016 in a case between the Power Grid Corporation of India Ltd V/s Century Textile & Industries Ltd & other i.e. “No Prior Consent, from the owner of the land, is necessary before laying Electricity transmission line.”

Electricity sector – Introduction of Universal Service Obligation (USO) era: As we have seen above, ‘Electricity’ is no more a luxury but a fundamental need of every Indian citizen, so Universal Service Obligation (USO), which is now a legal mandate as supported by honourable court’s decision mentioned above. USO may be defined as “Minimum set of services with well-defined quality to which all consumers have easy access at a reasonable cost without hurting competitions between the “service providers” for better quality and more competitive rates”. It is already a well-established concept in western world in power sector. In India, we have seen it telecom sectors in the last two decades.

Exploring New Avenues (R&D): Our eastern world except Japan spends very little on R&D, most of the time we have to rely on western world and they provide us their obsolete technologies at the price of their own choice along with arm-twisting as and when required. We need to break it up as early as possible. Need to thrust more on quality of education to produce world class scientists and engineers and give them due regard in terms of salaries and perks and conducive working environment free from nepotism and favouritism like Infosys and TCS in India. As we know, more than 40% engineers of NASA are Indian, the economies of GCC and few western countries are rolling due to Indian engineers. Now, Indian engineers are a ‘force to reckon with’ globally.

Power Management Redefined

Demand Management (DSM): It is the management of consumer’s demand of electricity through various methods such as financial incentives and consumer education i.e. energy efficiency & bill payments etc. Usually the goal of DSM is to encourage the bulk consumers to use less energy during peak hours or to move the time of energy use to the off-peak hour viz. night. For the purpose, a different scheme such as Time of Day (TOD) tariff was introduced to offer the monetary incentive to consumer to shift the load during off- peak hours for example Ferro Alloy producers are advised to shift the load of their submerged arc furnaces to night shift.

Aggregate Technical & Commercial (AT&C) Losses: India is the fifth largest country as far as electricity production is concerned as mentioned above but probably we are at the top in the world on sustained AT&C losses i.e. with average of 27% in 2013-14, while world average is merely 9% and western world is maintaining it to 4-5%. Actually, at some places in India, it was found up to 50%. It means whatever power we produces, only half of it reaches to consumers or billed. It incurs huge losses to DISCOMS.

Ministry of Power (MoP) launched Ujjawal DISCOM Assurance Yojna (UDAY) to resolve it by feeder & DTR metering for energy audit, rural feeder segregation, more field vigilance, proper meter readings and improved bill collections.

Efficient Billing: As mentioned earlier, billing is very important for the financial health of our DISCOMS. Billing methods must be consumer oriented like payments through mobile, bank or door to door collection and other apps. Severe penalties for non-payments for all. Our power policies need to be implemented on ground religiously to yield results within a specific timeframe.

Deferred Payment: If consumer can’t pay entire bill, he must be entitled to enter into ‘’Deferred Payment option’, if the utility has not issued more than one ‘disconnection’ notices in the past 12 months or so, and the consumer has deposited all his previous bills on time. One should contact the utility before due date of the bill, if he needs a deferred payment option and his services will not be disconnected. Likewise, there must be incentives from utility for the regular payments customers. ‘Illegal connections’ must be recognized as serious or non-bailable offence through fast track courts.

– Reactive Power Management: Among huge T&D losses, power factor is major contributor. So far, we have imposed restrictions on industrial sector only to maintain higher power factor (>0.95) for improved voltage regulation, more MVA utilization and less current in our lines. It has to be implemented in domestic power distribution network too by providing capacitors at load ends and capacitor banks at distribution sub-stations.

Electricity is our ‘fundamental’ right, according to Constitution of India but vis-a-vis responsibilities assigned should also be fulfilled by us before demanding for right. Government make policies and plans; its successful implementation is our responsibility as an engineer, planner, manager, administrator or consumer.

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