POWER RANGERS

There is still a long way to go, but In­dia has moved from scarcity to sur­plus power and eas­ily avail­able fuel

India Today - - 30 YEARS OF MODI GOVERNMENT | ENERGY - By Anilesh S. Ma­ha­jan

ON MARCH 31, WHEN THE DEAD­LINE for states to opt into the Ujwal DISCOM As­sur­ance Yo­jana (UDAY) ended, all but four states had cho­sen to sign up for power min­is­ter Piyush Goyal’s plan. UDAY is one of the most sweep­ing re­forms of the elec­tric­ity sec­tor since 2003, when it was for­mally opened up to the pri­vate sec­tor. The new re­form was ini­ti­ated in Septem­ber 2015, to clean the books of elec­tric­ity distri­bu­tion com­pa­nies of their cu­mu­la­tive out­stand­ing of more than Rs 4 lakh crore. In the past 18 months, Goyal has en­sured that states grad­u­ally take th­ese debts onto their own bal­ance sheets, thus free­ing up the fi­nances of distri­bu­tion com­pa­nies to make good on their com­mit­ments to in­vest in sys­tem and ser­vice up­grades.

In the past three years, Goyal has had gen­er­a­tion ca­pac­ity ramped up by nearly 87 GW—both by flag­ging off new projects as well as by de­bot­tle­neck­ing stranded ones. He has also ironed out pol­icy, qual­ity and reg­u­la­tory hur­dles in coal pro­duc­tion, rais­ing out­put from 462 to 554 mil­lion tonnes. Even so, the poor health of distri­bu­tion com­pa­nies stalls his march. Coal In­dia is hold­ing up pro­duc­tion and In­dian ther­mal power plants are run­ning at less than 60 per cent ca­pac­ity. This is vis­i­ble in the power out­ages that many parts of the coun­try still face. How­ever, the early re­sults are promis­ing—in 2014, ur­ban In­dia wit­nessed 16 hours of power cuts on av­er­age. To­day, that has been re­duced to about 6 hours. When it comes to ru­ral power, Goyal is busy—in the past two years, 13,469 vil­lages have been pro­vided with elec­tric­ity con­nec­tions; 4,039 more are slated to get con­nec­tions in the next 18 months.

Along with oil and gas min­is­ter Dhar­men­dra Pradhan, Goyal is putting to­gether a plan to in­crease en­ergy avail­abil­ity and make it af­ford­able. Both min­is­ters face a se­ries of legacy chal­lenges to this push, in­clud­ing cor­rup­tion, in­ef­fi­ciency and a lack of over­all di­rec­tion. “From the days of scarcity, we are mov­ing to­wards days of eas­ier avail­abil­ity,” says Pradhan. For his part, the min­is­ter for oil and gas has also pushed a new pol­icy—the Hy­dro­car­bon Ex­plo­ration Li­cens­ing Pol­icy (HELP)—which gives pri­vate sec­tor com­pa­nies a free hand in the mar­ket­ing and pric­ing of gas. Pradhan ag­gres­sively pushed 20 mil­lion free LPG con­nec­tions to BPL fam­i­lies in the past year, un­der the PM Ujjwala Yo­jana—which is funded by sub­si­dies for­gone by af­flu­ent con­sumers.

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