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Discoms, not Centre, to guarantee power supply to all villages, says official

Electrification work in progress at a village in Khammam district of Telangana. File

Electrification work in progress at a village in Khammam district of Telangana. File   | Photo Credit: The Hindu

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State-level distribution companies should ensure power availability; Centre can only connect villages and households to grid, says senior Power Ministry bureaucrat.

While it is the Centre’s responsibility to connect households and villages to the power grid or provide them alternative sources of electricity, it cannot guarantee the supply of electricity to them, Arun Kumar Verma, Joint Secretary in the Power Ministry, said here on Monday.

The actual supply is the responsibility of the power distribution companies in each State, the official told The Hindu.

The Centre has claimed 100% electrification of all villages and 83% of all households across the country. It has said that all households will be electrified by the year end.

Discrepancies in claims

However, an analysis by The Hindu has found several discrepancies between the actual and the on-paper status of electrification.

In some cases, the electrification infrastructure such as cables and transformers were stolen days after they were installed, leaving the target village unelectrified in reality but connected on paper. In other cases, electricity was supplied for just a few hours a day.

“It is not our job to go and check every village whether the infrastructure is still there or if they are getting electricity supply,” Mr. Verma said.

“That has to be done by the State governments and the distribution companies (discoms). But we are aware that access to electricity also means consistent supply.”

Discoms, not Centre, to guarantee power supply to all villages, says official
 

“We are on track to meet the 24x7 power for all deadline by March 2019, in which case not only will all houses be electrified but they will also get electricity through the day,” Mr. Verma said.

Rampant power cuts

Despite the government pegging India as a power surplus nation, almost every State in the country reels under power cuts, especially during peak summer. This, according to power sector analysts, is because discoms are still very inefficient, with the costs they incur in the transmission far outweighing revenue. Government data show discoms across the country, on an average, lose ₹0.22 a unit of electricity supplied.

However, the Power Ministry has claimed that this situation is improving rapidly under the Ujwal Discom Assurance Yojana (UDAY), with Power Minister R.K. Singh recently saying that discom losses have drastically reduced to ₹17,352 crore in 2017-18 from ₹51,096 crore in the previous year.

More to achieve

Sector specialists however, say that while the performance of discoms is improving, they are still not at the performance level to supply electricity 24x7. The only hope of the utilities is continued assistance from the State governments.

“On their own, the many of the discoms right now are not ready to provide 24x7 power, for two reasons,” Amrit Pandurangi, power sector analyst, said.

“The first is their financial health. Most of them are not financially capable to do this. Secondly, only some of the discoms have the infrastructure to supply good quality power on a sustained basis. But if the respective State governments continue to give financial support and assurances to the discoms, then this could definitely improve.”

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Corrections & Clarifications:

-The headline of the article was changed post publication.

-The article had erroneously mentioned Amrit Pandurangi as senior director, infrastructure, Deloitte India. Mr. Pandurangi is no longer with Deloitte.

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Printable version | Dec 10, 2019 4:28:32 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/discoms-not-centre-to-guarantee-power-supply-to-all-villages-says-official/article24255946.ece

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