In India, 300 million people don’t have access to electricity, power cuts are rampant and per capita power consumption is significantly lower than the world average. In sharp contrast to this, the Power Ministry says India is power-surplus.
“India is likely to experience the energy surplus of 1.1 per cent in 2016-17,” says the Load Generation and Balance Report (LGBR) 2016-17 of the Central Electricity Authority (CEA), which functions under the Power Ministry.
Surplus or deficit is determined by calculating the difference between the demand for power and availability. It is the definition of “demand” that lies at the base of this paradox.
‘Real demand’ “While calculating power demand, only people who are connected to the grid and have access to electricity at present are taken into consideration,” S.D. Dubey, Chairperson of the CEA, told The Hindu . The “real demand” that encompasses all citizens would be known only when India achieves the goal of ‘Power for All’, towards which the government is actively working, he says.
Taking this definition into consideration, there has been a significant improvement. The deficit has gradually reduced from 11 per cent in 2008-09 to 2.9 in 2015-16 and for the first time, there will be a surplus in 2016-17.
Source: RBI; LGBR 2016-17
But if there is surplus power, why do we have power cuts? “State discoms are unable to buy electricity due to poor financial health. There is unused power lying in the grid,” Mr. Dubey said.
Transmission and distribution constraints are also responsible for power cuts. To solve this problem, the government launched the Ujjawal Discom Assurance Yojana (UDAY) in November 2015. By operational and financial turnaround of discoms, UDAY is expected to facilitate reliable, adequate and sufficient power supply to consumers, among other things. The state of power in the country is best captured by looking at the per capita power consumption. On an average, in 2015-16, the per capita consumption in India was 1,070 kWh, less than the world average of 3,026 kWh, as per data from the International Energy Agency. It is also the lowest among BRICS nations.
Source: Data for India: Parliamentary Questions, 2015; Other Nations: International Energy Agency, 2013
The low per capita consumption is mainly due to a large population, a low per capita income and a huge population not having access to electricity. Note that six States — Madhya Pradesh, Kerala, Odisha, Sikkim, Mizoram, Tripura — will be power-surplus in 2016-17 but the per capita availability in the States is lower than the national average. Overall, as per LGBR, 17 States will have power-surplus in 2016-17.
Power demand for India grew by 6.6 per cent in 2014-15 and 4.2 per cent in 2015-16. In the last two years, Bihar — which has the lowest per capita power availability, witnessed the highest percentage growth, with demand increasing by around 25 per cent in both years.
This is indicative of more people getting connected to the grid, the official said.
To meet the growing demand for electricity, the government is increasing the installed generation capacity as well. “We hope to be power-surplus even when all Indians will have access to electricity,” Mr. Dubey said.