If slippages were shown by some electricity distribution entities in achieving the Ujwal Discom Assurance Yojana (UDAY) operational targets, power and coal minister Piyush Goyal said on Tuesday, it could be partly because “we now get more accurate data”. The minister indicated that discoms in some states might have to face the music for wrong representation of data. The Yogi Adityanath government in Uttar Pradesh, for instance, had started questioning the state’s power distribution utilities on the unreasonably high consumption rates reported for poor households, he told FE in an interview.
Asked whether power and coal scenario in the country did not deceptively look better than it actually was owing to a slower-than-expected demand growth, the minister said this was a wrong analysis. “Power demand growth (CAGR) from 2004-14 (during the UPA government’s time) was 6.14%. In the last three years of our government, it has been higher at 6.5%,” he said.
He added that in the absence of energy efficiency gains from LED bulbs (50 core bulbs sold in the last three years), the power demand growth would have been reckoned at 9-9.5%. Plus, he said, other measures like augmented coal supply to captive power plants made more power available in the grid.
“Power demand growth would have been (reported) in double digits during this government, had it not been for these steps,” Goyal said. “In our first two years, we added 45,000 MW of thermal capacity. That led to a sudden rise in total installed capacity, causing plant load factors to fall,” the minister said, suggesting lower capacity utilisation levels of plants was less of a function of slowing demand.
Refuting assumptions that UDAY is a burden on state finances, the minister said that on the contrary, states were now paying interest at 4 percentage points lower than what discoms used to on the latter’s debt (ultimately inflating the states’ grants/subsidies to discoms).
As FE reported recently, discoms in 12 UDAY states reported increases in their aggregate technical and commercial (AT&C) losses between March 2016 and December 2016. And in at least three other states among the 18 that furnished the relevant data, the discoms could not reduce the AT&C losses to the extent required under UDAY. “I’m continuously worried about that (getting the correct data from discoms). We are trying to improve data procurement through feeder metering. (The data could be corrupted in various ways.) For example, earlier many states used to wrongly load a lot of consumption on unmetered agricultural connection (and picture a power pilferage/theft scenario rosier than real),” the minister said.
Stating that data integrity was now improving as “we are tightening the belt… validating the data”, the minister said in Uttar Pradesh, for instance, it was now realised that “the actual loss might have been at least 10% higher than what they used to report”. Under the previous Akhilesh Yadav government, Goyal said, discoms used to put higher consumption figures in as many as 60 lakh unmetered connections.