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Interaction | November 2016

Connect all homes in villages, REC ready to help

Excerpts from the Minister of State (I/C) for Power, Coal, New and Renewable Energy and Mines, Piyush Goyal´s speeches at SWITCH 2016 conference in Vadodara on October 7, 2016.

On International Conference
At the International Conference held at SWITCH 2016, one of the focus areas was the International Solar Alliance (ISA), about which a steering committee about three or four days back has broadly come to a consensus on the nature of ISA and the draft paper is being circulated across the world. And we do hope to see ISA operational in the very near future. The conference also discussed, how the conventional energy can be made clean and green. And lastly, we have discussed about the ramp up of the solar energy and other forms of renewable energy in a more affordable fashion. They will help us in taking forward our renewable energy focus.

On Power Ministers Conference
We have good attendance from most of the states. Even during the discussions, we sort out issues on the spot. The case in point was, a power secretary raised the issue that the Below Poverty Line (BPL) data is very old, whereas Socio Economic and Caste Census 2011 (SECC) data is nearer and more accurate or more recent. On the spot, I have taken a decision that the states can use any data whether BPL or SECC, the necessary legal changes at the Centre will be done by the ministry. The decision is taken, so they can implement it forthwith.

Today, we have taken another good decision. Once power has been reached to a village, give it to all households there. For connecting power to a household it costs an average of Rs.3,000-4000. Whatever money you have under the scheme from the Centre, you can use it. And if the cost is more than that, Rural Electrification Corporation (REC) is ready to provide loans towards capital cost for providing connectivity to households, at low interest rates and for longer duration of 10-15 years. Recover the same from the beneficiaries over that period and repay. For BPL homes it is anyway free. And the measure will also reduce corruption.

In fact, there is no need to check data, give electricity to every household, like it is done in states like Gujarat and Andhra Pradesh, which are 100 per cent electrified by now.

Usually, people are required to assess the expenditure incurred in taking power to a BPL household. So, a bill is laid. A person is required to make a payment against the bill. And then power is given to that house. I am urging the states that they should not continue with this practice.

On Implementation of UDAY
Extensive discussions were held today on the implementation of Ujwal Discom Assurance Yojana (UDAY). In all, 16 states and Union Territories have joined the scheme. Today we have signed an agreement with Maharashtra. As the states join the scheme, they are starting to significantly reduce their losses. Even in terms of improving operational parameters, I see a lot of enthusiasm, particularly in states like Haryana and Rajasthan, which are proactively working towards bringing down their Aggregate Technical and Commercial (AT&C) losses.

The first tranche of UDAY bonds were issued in the last week of March. The fact that the states are evincing interest in the scheme demonstrates the sincerity and the win-win situation that we have created. That all the states that are joining are reaping benefits augurs well. To cite an example, two days back a long pending issue of coal rationalisation of Gujarat has been resolved. On the Gujarat government´s request 1.02 million tonnes per annum of coal linkage has been switched from SCCL to WCL. This will save `100 crore per annum for the people of Gujarat and in the process, it will save money for the state discoms (power distribution companies), regulators and consumers.

On Feeder Metering
Similarly, after reviewing the progress of UDAY, we also discussed with the states on how to ramp up feeder metering and IT enablement of the balance 2,600 towns, so that they can be tracked on a real-time basis and made public. That will help us to isolate the areas which need specific attention to bring down their AT&C losses. We are working for 100 per cent IT enablement of rural feeders as well.

On 100% Electrification
We also had extensive discussions on 100 per cent household electrification on which I have cited a couple of policy decisions taken here. I am very confident of the support of the states in meeting the target of 100 per cent of household electrification by 2019, three years ahead of the original plan of 2022. Apart from that we have felicitated three states today - Assam, Gujarat and Uttarakhand, for these states have put 100 per cent data of their household electrification on Urja Mitra app. This data enabled consumers in these states get the information on the state of power supply on a real-time basis through SMS. If it is a planned outage then they would get intimation in advance with timings mentioned. And if it is an unplanned outage, then they will get an apologetic SMS stating the reasons for the same.

For the first time, almost all the states have agreed to speed up data compilation. A lot of states, including Maharashtra, Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Uttar Pradesh and Bihar have committed to speed up their compilation. These were the issues we have discussed so far.

Later in the day and tomorrow, the Power Ministers Conference will be discussing issues pertaining to renewable energy sources, coal-related issues, hydro and policy, energy conservation, waste and energy consumption, transmission issues, and plan to square off the discussions with power demand.

On 24x7 Power
Except UP and TN, all the other states have executed the 24x7 power supply document.
We welcome that. But all other states, are already well on track, using the benefits of UDAY and using the proactive governance. We are confident that India is moving fast towards 100 per cent rural electrification, 24x7 power supply for every home, industry and business, adequate power for all farmers, better energy efficiency, energy security through coal surplus, power surplus, large ramp up of renewable energy, and ultimately bringing down imports of other minerals through rapid exploitation of mineral wealth in the country.

On curtailing coal imports
The days of coal shortages are over. And hence we see ourselves in a comfortable position to advice importers to use domestic coal. This is being done in two parts. One, with regard to state and the Central PSUs, and all of them have committed themselves not to import any coal, except that already committed. For the private sector, it is slightly trickier. So, we are sitting with each one of them and trying to work out a strategy on how to offer them coal which is better than what they are getting and at a better price.

On Politics over Power
Politics is in every aspect of our lives. There is a government that works and that is run by politicians. But I am delighted that in our area of power, the four sectors of the ministry have got outstanding support and co-operation from all the states. As you are aware UDAY was a voluntary programme. Despite that, one of the first states to join it was Bihar, where we have lost election just 15 days earlier by then. One of the early states to join were UP and Telangana, the states which were inimical to the political dispensation at the Centre. So we have been able to demonstrate fairly that the Centre doesn´t differentiate between the states based on political ideology that governs them.

- BS Srinivasalu Reddy
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