The government expects that power thefts — one of the primary reasons behind high aggregate technical and commercial (AT&C) losses of discoms—to come under check after the implementation of the Saubhagya scheme. Power secretary Ajay Kumar Bhalla said the government is trying to procure smart meters with pre-paid payment facilities under the scheme which aims to bring electricity to 4.1 crore of unconnected households by December 2018. He added that most of the spendings under the Rs 16,320-crore scheme would be earmarked for meters and last-mile connectivity. About Rs 4,000 crore is expected to be spent in the ongoing fiscal.
Bhalla added that it will take two months to award scheme implementation contracts through various discoms and a workshop on Saubhagya with state power sectretaries is scheduled in the first week of October. The government is banking on the recent electrification achievements of the discoms where they were able to bring power to 15,466 villages in three years. Somesh Kumar, partner and national leader, power and utilities, EY India, said the scheme has the potential to provide a much needed thrust to the rural economy through continuous electricity, one of the most essential ingredient of economic growth.
Bhalla said that increase in power demand due to Saubhagya would not be a problem for the state-owned discoms who have “cleaned balance sheets after Uday”. Research firm Care Ratings said the scheme needs to have a proper mechanism to realise and collect revenue for electricity consumed by the newly added households as “non-payment of dues by such power users may only add to the woes of ailing discoms and power generators”.
Sabyasachi Majumdar, senior vice-president, Icra Ratings, said, “The demand growth from the relatively high tariff industrial and commercial segments will remain critical for the overall demand growth and viability of discoms.”