Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Monday gave a big push to an ongoing mission to get all households in the country electrified by launching a Rs 16,320-crore scheme — Pradhan Mantri Sahaj Bijli Har Ghar Yojana (Saubhagya) — to achieve the coveted goal by the end of December 2018. While the scheme’s successful completion could give the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) a powerful campaign slogan just before the next general elections, it could also give a moderate boost to the slowing economy by increasing the sales of last-mile transmission and metering equipment. The overall demand for electricity, which has been stagnating for a while, might get a fillip too.
Apart from independent power producers, smart meter makers such as ABB, BHEL, Siemens and Havells and transmission connectivity providers like Sterlite, GE, L&T and Adani Transmission are expected to gain from the scheme. Of the total cost of Saubhagya, Rs 12,320 crore will be in the form of the Centre’s budget support; Rs 14,025 crore will be used for electrification of rural households — 1.5 crore such households have already been electrified under the Deendayal Upadhyaya Gram Jyoti Yojana (DDUGJY) — while Rs 2,295 crore will be allotted for urban homes.
According to Ashok Khurana, director general of the Association of Power Producers, since the country has excess power generation capacity, Saubhagya could be followed up with a scheme giving minimum power entitlement for every citizen. Khurana believes that if the government gets on the project in mission mode, the target could be completed in one year. Under then new scheme, similar to the free LPG scheme that has been a big success, households above the poverty line would have to pay Rs 500 in 10 instalments for a power connection, power minister RK Singh said. For BPL households, the connection will be free. Of course, the cost of power has to be paid by the new subscribers as per their use, even though many states continue to subsidise tariffs for low-income people, especially farmers.
Lamenting that 4 crore or 20% of the country’s household are without electricity 70 years after Independence, Modi said that his government was determined to provide 24×7 reliable-quality power to the entire population. Kameswara Rao, leader, energy, utilities and mining, PwC India, said: “The last-mile connectivity has always been a challenge, with households facing high connections costs, and states facing higher supply costs. So, this attempt to address both, by funding energy efficient equipment, is a positive step.” Under Saubhagya, households living in remote areas without access to a power transmission grid would receive solar power packs with five LED lights, one fan, and one plug point with five years of repair and maintenance service.
The prime minister also inaugurated a booster facility at ONGC’s Mumbai High station which would enhance productivity. The facility, which will cost Rs 4,000 crore, is expected to process 10 million standard cubic metres per day of gas per year. Oil and petroleum minister Dharmedra Pradhan also announced that ONGC would go completely paperless under its “Disha” scheme. Even though official figures say that only 2,986 of the country’s 5.97 lakh villages remain “un-electrified”, rural households without access to power are still more than 4.1 crore. Villages can be called “electrified” if at least 10% its households are provided with electricity connection, as per the current definition. Singh said that the government is on track to complete the 100% rural electrification process by December 2018.
The agreements for the 24X7 Power-For-All scheme has been signed by 35 states and union territories. The Modi government had, in November 2014, launched DDUGJY in rural areas and the Integrated Power Development Scheme for urban areas for 24X7 power. The DDUGJY programme subsumed features such as electricity access to villages and households along with free connection to BPL families of the previous Rajeev Gandhi Grameen Vidyutikaran Yojana. The outlay of DDUGJY is Rs 43,033 crore with Rs 33,453 crore grant from the Centre. There has been a significant increase in the speed of rural electrification under DDUGJY, covering 6,015 village in FY17, compared to 1,197 in FY14.