UPSC MAINS 2019: 100% rural electrification is not enough

Topic : 100% rural electrification is not enough

Topic in Syllabus: General Studies Paper 3: Indian Economy

 

Context:

It is highly likely that the Central government declares that all houses in India have electricity connections. As per the latest reports on the Saubhagya website, only around 20,000 households in Chhattisgarh remain to be connected.

 

More about on news:

  • Available data indicate that metering, billing and payment complaints dominate the list.
  • There are inordinate delays in issuing bills for newly connected households, mistakes in bills, meter faults and difficulties in bill payments.
  • Government reports indicate 16 to 24 hours of supply in rural areas.
  • But consumer surveys and sample measurements report much lower hours.
  • Other than homes, rural electrification should also ensure access to agriculture, small business and community services like street lighting, schools, and health centres.
  • Agriculture gets only 7 to 8 hours of supply in most States, mostly during the night, with frequent interruptions.

 

Challenges:

  • It is also necessary to register that this is just a good beginning.
  • The connection challenge may have been met, but the supply challenge remains.
  • To improve the quality of life and to aid economic activities, it is essential to ensure affordable, reliable electricity supply.
  • This has largely been neglected in the rush to reach household connection and village electrification milestones.
  • Supply is managed by cash-strapped distribution companies which have no financial incentive to supply to the rural poor.

 

When a village is called an Electrified Village?

 

Prior to October 1997:

  • A Village should be classified as electrified if electricity is being used within its revenue area for any purpose whatsoever.

 

After October 1997:

A village will be deemed to be electrified if the electricity is used in the inhabited locality, within the revenue boundary of the village for any purpose whatsoever.

As per the new definition, a village would be declared as electrified, if:

  • Basic infrastructure such as Distribution Transformer and Distribution lines are provided in the inhabited locality as well as the Dalit Basti hamlet where it exists.
  • Electricity is provided to public places like Schools, Panchayat Office, Health Centers, Dispensaries,Community centers etc.
  • The number of households electrified should be at least 10% of the total number of households in the village.

 

Rural electrification in India:

  • Rural electrification is considered to be the backbone of the rural economy.
  • The electricity generation capacity in India is the fifth largest in the world.
  • India is the sixth largest consumer of electricity and accounts for 3.4 percent of the global energy consumption.
  • India has four crore un-electrified rural households.
  • The year 2022, has been earmarked for achieving the target of “24×7 Power for All”.
  • Achieving this target would mean electrifying more than 7 lakh households every month.

 

Rural electrification has five major facets:

  • Setting up of Rural Electricity Infrastructure
  • Providing connectivity to households
  • Adequate supply of desired quality of power
  • Supply of electricity at affordable rates
  • Providing clean, environmentally benign and sustainable power in efficient way.

 

Related Schemes:

 

DeenDayalUpadhyaya Gram JyotiYojana (DDUGJY):

  • This scheme focuses on feeder separation (rural households & agricultural) and strengthening of sub-transmission & distribution infrastructure including metering at all levels in rural areas.
  • This will help in providing round the clock power to rural households and adequate power to agricultural consumers.
  • The earlier scheme for rural electrification viz. Rajiv Gandhi GrameenVidyutikaranYojana (RGGVY) has been subsumed in the new scheme as its rural electrification component.

 

Salient features of DeenDayalUpadhyaya Gram JyotiYojana:

  • To provide electrification to all villages. It will facilitate 24×7 supply of power.
  • Feeder separation to ensure sufficient power to farmers and regular supply to other consumers.
  • Improvement of Sub-transmission and distribution network to improve the quality and reliability of the supply.
  • Metering at all levels (input points, feeders and distribution transformers.
  • Micro grid and off grid distribution network Rural electrification- already sanctioned projects under RGGVY to be completed.

 

Rajiv Gandhi GrameenVidyutikaranYojana:

Rajiv Gandhi GrameenVidyutikaranYojana (RGGVY) was launched in April 2005 by merging all ongoing schemes. The Government is implementing Decentralised Distributed Generation (DDG) under Rajiv Gandhi GrameenVidyutikaranYojana (RGGVY) for electrification of villages where grid connectivity is either not feasible or not cost effectiv

 

Aims

  • Electrifying all villages and habitations as per new definition
  • Providing access to electricity to all rural households
  • Providing electricity Connection to Below Poverty Line (BPL) families free of charge

 

Infrastructure under RGGVY:

  • Rural Electricity Distribution Backbone (REDB) with 33/11 KV (or 66/11 KV) sub-station of adequate capacity in blocks where these do not exist.
  • Village Electrification Infrastructure (VEI) with provision of distribution transformer of appropriate capacity in villages/habitations.
  • Decentralized Distributed Generation (DDG) Systems based on conventional & non-conventional energy sources where grid supply is not feasible or cost-effective.

 

Remote Village Electrification Programme:

  • The Ministry of New and Renewable Energy, Government of India is implementing this programme for providing financial support for electrification of those remote unelectrified census villages and unelectrified hamlets of electrified census villages where grid-extension is either not feasible or not cost effective and are not covered under DDUGJY.
  • Such villages are provided basic facilities for electricity / lighting through various renewable energy sources.
  • Small Hydro Power Generation systems, biomass gasification-based electricity generation systems, solar photovoltaic power plants, etc., in distributed power generation mode may be used depending upon the availability of resources for generation of required electricity.

 

Village Energy Security programme:

  • The objective of the project is to go beyond electrification by addressing the total energy requirements for cooking, electricity, and motive provide access to electricity through renewables to households in remote villages and hamlets, which are not likely to get covered through grid extension.
  • The projects on village energy security are taken up with a view to demonstrate the techno-economic parameters of the village energy security plan, provide operational experience, mobilize local communities and firm up the institutional arrangements.
  • Area of coverage: The projects would be undertaken in unelectrified remote villages and hamlets that are not likely to be electrified through conventional means.

 

Pradhan MantriSahajBijliHarGharYojana –“Saubhagya”:

  • Launched in 2017.
  • It will provide the required financial assistance for strengthening and improvement of infrastructure in the power sector.
  • Pradhan MantriSahajBijliHarGharYojana, or Saubhagya, to ensure electrification of all willing households in the country in rural as well as urban areas.

 

Salient features of Pradhan MantriSahajBijliHarGharYojana –“Saubhagya”

  • To ensure electrification of all willing households in the country in rural as well as urban areas.
  • The beneficiaries for free electricity connections would be identified using Socio Economic and Caste Census (SECC) 2011 data.
  • The solar power packs of 200 to 300 WP with battery bank for un-electrified households located in remote and inaccessible areas, comprises of Five LED lights, One DC fan, One DC power plug. It also includes the Repair and Maintenance (R&M) for 5 years.

 

National Rural Electrification Policy, 2006:

The National Rural Electrification Policy was notified in compliance with Sections 4 & 5 of the Electricity Act, 2003 by the Central Government.

  • Goals include provision of access to electricity to all households by the year 2009, quality and reliable power supply at reasonable rates, and minimum lifeline consumption of 1 unit/household/day as a merit good by year 2012.
  • For villages/habitations where grid connectivity would not be feasible or not cost effective, off-grid solutions based on stand-alone systems may be taken up for supply of electricity.
  • State government should, within 6 months, prepare and notify a rural electrification plan which should map and detail the electrification delivery mechanism.
  • Gram panchayat shall issue the first certificate at the time of the village becoming eligible for declaration as electrified.
  • The state government should set up a committee at the district level within 3 months, under the chairmanship of chairperson of the ZillaPanchayat and with representations from district level agencies, consumer associations, and important stakeholders with adequate representation of women.
  • The district committee would coordinate and review the extension of electrification in the district and consumer satisfaction, etc.
  • Panchayat Raj institutions would have a supervisory / advisory role.
  • Institutional arrangements for backup services and technical support to systems based on non-conventional sources of energy will have to be created by the state government.

 

Rural Electrification Challenges in India:

  • Non-uniformly electrified
  • Poor planning
  • Electricity Theft
  • Poor infrastructure for electrical transmissions
  • Lack of political will
  • Incomplete Coverage
  • Faulty/Incomplete Data
  • Time Consumption & Difficult Procedure
  • Low Demand & Low Consumption
  • Less use of Renewable Energy Resources
    • Solar Energy
    • Wind Energy
    • Hydro Energy

 

Way forward:

  • To address these issues, emphasis is being laid on ensuring accurate meter readings.
  • Several discoms have introduced spot billing with hand-held devices for single-phase meters.
  • For three-phase meters, the discoms have adopted measures such as remote meter reading, spot billing and kVAh billing.
  • In addition, officers have been employed to record reasons for unusually high or low consumption levels, in an attempt to identify any cases of theft or meter tampering.
  • In addition, discoms have been encouraging digital payments by launching mobile applications or web portals for billing purposes.
  • A few utilities have also collaborated with village-level self-help groups for revenue collection and theft tracking.
  • It can be provided at concessional rates to distribution companies for reliable supply in designated rural areas.
  • To promote economic activity, small enterprises with consumption of about 300 units should be assured affordable tariff.
  • For community facilities like health centres in want of reliable supply, schemes to deploy kilowatt size solar plants with battery backup could be planned.
  • Technology-led initiatives like prepaid meters, smart meters and direct benefit transfer should be attempted as pilot projects before scaling up.

 

Sample Question:

“Centre government has announced that the country has achieved 100% of village electrification. But That Doesn’t Mean Everyone Has Power” comment.