In News: India has electrified all its villages twelve days ahead of a deadline set by Prime Minister Narendra Modi. The electrification of Leisang, in the eastern state of Manipur, marked a landmark moment in Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s program to bring light to every one of India’s villages. Data showed that all of India six lakh census villages have now been electrified.
While it is a major historic moment, a Bloomberg report estimates that almost 32 million homes are still left in the dark: as the government deems a village “electrified” if 10 percent of its households, as well as public places such as schools and health centers, have access to electricity. Accordingly, while all villages have ‘access’ to power, less than 8 percent of the newly electrified villages had all homes electrified, the data showed, leaving swaths of rural India without power, which can hinder economic growth, basic health care and education.
What does Électrified’ mean?
Electrified means the village is connected to power grid. It essentially does not mean that all its habitants have access to electricity. The government deems a village “electrified” if power cables from the grid reach a transformer in each village and 10% of its households, as well as public places such as schools and health centers, are connected.
This is why even though 100% electrification of villages has been achieved, government data shows that as of today, there are still 31 million households without electricity. In states like Uttar Pradesh, Jharkhand and Assam, fewer than 60% of households have electricity, four years after the BJP came to power on the promise of “electricity for all”. In 12 out of the 30 states, fewer than 80% of the households have been electrified.
Electrification is a three-step process
- Extend the infrastructure to the village (India has achieved this)
- Connect the household
- Ensure reliable and affordable supply on a sustained basis
Issues that have plagued the sector: Present & Future
- Efforts to provide electricity to every Indian have historically been hampered by poorly designed and implemented schemes that encouraged contractors to do the bare minimum to make sure a village qualified as electrified, resulting in inconsistencies in official data, and glaring disparities on the ground.
- The next challenge for the government will be to install electrical connections to about 30 million homes that are still off the grid.
- Electricity supply is controlled and maintained by India’s state governments, and, these government-owned distribution companies “remain the weakest link” in the power sector value chain. They are badly run and unable to invest in upkeep of the local distribution infrastructure. Reliability of electricity supply is “likely to remain a dream” for most consumers in India for years to come.
- Grid reliability challenges are more severe in dispersed rural areas than in cities. Though India has put rural electrification in a sharper focus over the last few years, upgrading of local distribution infrastructure, including metering and billing, is crucial. That will determine whether the schemes launched for total village electrification bear the desired results and lead to true 100% household electrification.
- Most power distribution companies (discoms) continue to struggle with their financial turnaround plans despite implementation of the Centre’s mega loan recast scheme called UDAY. Unable to charge cost reflective tariffs, discoms have been resorting to widespread load-shedding to check their operational losses.
The Way Ahead:
As electricity comes along it creates a consumption multiplier. It acts as an investment multiplier. It works as an education multiplier. It works as a health multiplier.
- What is required from the federal government is to push the state-run distribution companies to carry out robust ground surveys and organize frequent camps to achieve the target so that not one household is left out from electrification. Unless that is done, the reliability of supply and viability of the distribution business will be difficult to achieve.
- To achieve a consistent round-the-clock power supply, considerable improvement in the operational efficiency of distributors through extensive and intensive change management and capacity-building programmes as well as strengthening of the electricity sub-stations and sub-transmission network are required. “At the same time, electricity must be priced rationally and the tariff structure is simplified.
- Decentralized renewable energy solutions such as mini-grids and rooftop solar, where the grid can’t reach or reliably serve, and operating together is the most sustainable last-mile solution to reach consumers and achieve universal access to energy.
We need innovative solutions to address the electricity access challenges posed by rural India –
- Village-level entrepreneurs could be contracted to operate and maintain the local distribution while generating bills and collecting revenues from the customers.
- Banking on community relationships, these entrepreneurs could improve compliance on payments as well as curb stealing of power.
- Recruiting and training local youth could help address maintenance issues. This will also help in creating more skilled jobs and entrepreneurs in rural areas.
- Pre-paid and smart metering systems are other ways to encourage payments. Such solutions need to be piloted and tested.
Connecting the dots:
- Electricity is the ‘guiding light’ towards attaining the goal of ‘developed India’. Critically analyse with respect to new scheme launched recently.
- Energy security in India can be achieved by adopting a right mix of coal-based power along with renewable energies. Discuss.
- The Power for all by 2022 target would require robust and innovative tools to measure and monitor the progress on a multi-dimensional level, rather than just counting the number of connections.
Electricity: Concurrent subject
Pradhan Mantri Sahaj Bijli Har Ghar Yojana (Saubhagya):
- Target: To achieve universal household electrification in the country by December 31, 2018.
- Aims to improve environment, public health and education and connectivity with help of last mile power connections across India.
- Aims to build upon Deen Dayal Upadhyaya Gram Jyoti Yojana launched in 2015 and Rajiv Gandhi Grameen Vidyutikaran Yojana launched by the UPA government in 2005, both of which also aimed to provide free electricity connections to the poor.
Deen Dayal Upadhyaya Gram Jyoti Yojana (DDUGJY)
- Designed to provide continuous power supply to rural India
- Replaced the Rajiv Gandhi Grameen Vidyutikaran Yojana
- Aim: To replace all incandescent bulbs in the country with LED lights in the next 3 years
Plant-Microbial Fuel Cell generates electricity from living plants
Generates electricity while the plants continue to grow; doesn’t affect the plant’s growth or harm its environment
- It works by taking advantage of the up to 70 percent of organic material produced via photosynthesis that can’t be used by the plant and is excreted through the roots.
- As naturally occurring bacteria around the roots break down this organic residue, electrons are released as a waste product.
- By placing an electrode close to the bacteria to absorb these electrons, the research team was able to generate electricity.
To make plants glow:
Inject Luciferin: A molecule, which when converted into oxyluciferin, releases the energy in the form of visible light.