Village electrification done, but these challenges could hurt Modi’s dream of lighting up every household

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Published: May 1, 2018 1:14:20 PM

While the Narendra Modi-led government has achieved the its village electrification target ahead of schedule, the next task to provide electricity access to every household could be replete with challenges.

Under the Saubhagya scheme (Pradhan Mantri Sahaj Bijli Har Ghar Yojana) the government aims to provide 24×7 reliable-quality power to India’s households.

While the Narendra Modi-led government has achieved the its village electrification target ahead of schedule, the next task to provide electricity access to every household could be replete with challenges. Under the Saubhagya scheme (Pradhan Mantri Sahaj Bijli Har Ghar Yojana) the government aims to provide 24×7 reliable-quality power to India’s households. “Electricity has reached every village, and will very soon be in every home. We aim to electrify the 4 crore households of the 25 crore households which are still not electrified,” Narendra Modi said while addressing a rally in Karnataka today.

The Rs 16,320 crore scheme envisages to provide households with solar power packs with five LED lights, one fan, and one plug point with five years of repair and maintenance service to people living in remote areas without access to a power transmission grid.

Union Power Minister RK Singh points out that the lack of equipment and manpower shortage are the biggest risks in electrifying the households in the hinterland. However, he said the government is hopeful of meeting the year-end target of providing 100% connectivity. Apart from implementation due to lack of equipment and even manpower, deteriorating financial condition of DISCOMs poses another major challenge.  

HD Khunteta, Former CMD Rural Electrification Corporation told ET Now, “Major contribution has to be done by REC (Rural Electrification Company) and DISCOMS. Connectivity is not the only answer. Reliable power at affordable rates is more important. Reforms for DISCOMS are essential. Losses of DISCOMS are more than 24%. Reducing that is a big task.”

Under Saubhagya, the government looks to fund the cost of last-mile connectivity to willing households to help achieve the goal of lighting every household by 31 December 2018. Earlier, it was observed that the loss making electricity distribution companies (discoms) don’t want to supply to the villages even if the electrification has taken place. The scheme looks to provide the households with prepaid and smart meters, to create demand and thereby force these discoms to provide electricity. “The last-mile connectivity has always been a challenge, with households facing high connections costs, and states facing higher supply costs,” Kameswara Rao, leader, energy, utilities and mining, PwC India said recently.

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