Providing 24*7 power for all - under the Saubhagya yojana - is one of PM Narendra Modi's pet projects and experts are of the view that the NDA government is moving in the right direction to turn this into a reality. All eyes are on the Modi government to give enough implementation impetus.
Providing 24*7 power for all – under the Saubhagya scheme – is one of PM Narendra Modi’s pet projects and experts are of the view that the government is moving in the right direction to turn this into a reality. At a time when the economy is recovering from the impact of demonetisation and GST, the need to provide sustainable avenues of economic growth assumes importance. Given the enabling role that power and electricity can play in the overall growth of a developing country like India, it is only fair to assume that the government focus on the implementation roadmap for this ambitious scheme. Sambitosh Mohapatra, Leader Energy & Utilities at PwC is optimistic that by March 2022, the whole of India will have reliable and quality 24*7 power supply! “The government has already undertaken the journey to electrify all the villages in the country. The government is fairly confident of where these households are, most around eight states and hundred districts where they want to electrify them. We believe that the target should be achieved give or take a few months here or there. Regarding the 24×7 reliable power, the deadline is not March 2019. However, by March 2022, which is post three years into electrification after March 2019, I think customers would be getting reliable and quality power,” he tells FE Online in an exclusive interaction.
UDAY scheme – step in the right direction – but more needs to be done
Mohapatra stresses on the need for state governments to align themselves with central government’s policies. “UDAY scheme has helped to an extent, but if the discom cost structure is at 100 per cent, then UDAY scheme has brought it down to 96 per cent. That means, there are some benefits. However, the cost recovery is at 80 per cent level. So, it means that there is still a gap of 96 to 80 which has to be addressed,” Mohapatra says. “To an extent, tariff under-recovery or the dis-allowances by regulatory commissions take about 2-4 per cent, but it is largely marred by the inefficiency of discoms. This is where we are very clear, until and unless you bring the competition in, you get the latest management practices, these discoms will not change,” he believes, substantiating his point by adding, “the average age of the discom employees is around 48-50. So these discoms don’t even have the latest skills which are required. A lot of work needs to be done in improving the operational efficiency and management process in these discoms.” “A central government can do only as much. I hope that the state government can align itself with the policies of the central government and focus on the operational efficiencies of these discoms,” he adds.
More power to customers with MNP-like portability of power and smart meters
Both concepts – smart meters and the ability to choose your power distributor – will be gamechangers for the power sector. Mohapatra believes that the power sector needs an MNP-like concept. “If you look at some of the promises that were made in 2014 by the government, it was about providing choice to the customer and ensuring that the competition will come in the last leg, which is distribution. Unless these two things are provided for, the sector viability will not improve,” he believes. “We were very clear about the amendment to the act where the state regulatory commissions will get strengthened. Unless these bodies get strengthened, and do their job properly, a customer cannot get reliable and quality power at affordable prices,” he adds.
On the concept of smart meters, Mohapatra states that after its implementation, the electricity boards will be able to get an accurate measurement of demand and load profile of each customer. “Once you know the demand profile of a customer, region, then a district, then a state and the entire country – you can make power procurement strategies accordingly. That means you need not have base load stations meeting peak load. With renewable energy coming into the grid how you appropriately make power procurement strategies across various fuels and time period of the day, would become very important,” he concludes. The bid to provide pan-India electricity, is key to driving overall industrial growth – apart from its obvious social importance. All eyes are on the Modi government to give enough implementation impetus to address concerns of discoms and ensure fulfilment of the 24*7 power for all dream.