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Cover Story | April 2016

Interventions improved implementation significantly

Dr. A K Verma | IFS, Joint Secretary, Ministry of Power, GoI

What are the strategies in rural electrification that have paid off in the recent past?
The Ministry of Power and Rural Electrification Corporation (REC), after consultation with state governments, have formulated the roadmap and strategy to electrify the remaining un-electrified villages on mission mode under Deendayal Upadhyaya Gram Jyoti Yojana (DDUGJY). The key initiatives taken up under the scheme to ensure electrification of all remaining villages within the given time frame includes, (i) Deployment of qualified engineers ´Gram Vidyut Abhiyanta´ (GVA) at District / Block level (ii) 12 stage milestones-based monitoring with defined timelines (iii) Off-grid solutions for villages in difficult/ far-flung/ hilly areas and (iv) Regular review and monitoring by REC, the Ministry of Power and the Cabinet Secretariat.

GVAs deployed at block/ district levels are conducting extensive field visits and updating near real-time progress along with photographs for individual milestones achieved for a village using the latest Information Technology (IT) tools. To ensure transparency and dissemination of information to public at large with regard to process and progress on electrification of these villages, a Mobile App (´GARV´ - Grameen Vidyutikaran App) has been launched. The progress on village electrification along with requisite date and photographs is updated by the GVAs while carrying out field visits on a day-to-day basis. This App is being extensively utilised by all the stakeholders (GVAs, DISCOMs, State Govt., REC, the Ministry of Power etc.) for regular review and monitoring.

With these interventions, progress on village electrification has improved significantly as compared to yesteryears. We intend to continue with this strategy in future also, focusing on rigorous field level monitoring and real time updating using IT tools.

What is the pace of rural electrification initiatives over the last five years and what are your future plans?
The pace of rural electrification has been accelerated and the results are coming fast. We have been able to electrify 6,397 un-electrified villages (as on March 11, 2016) which is more than cumulative achievement of past three years. Hon´ble Prime Minister, in his address to the nation on 69th Independence Day (August 15, 2015) announced the pledge that the remaining 18,452 un-electrified villages in the country would be electrified within the next 1,000 days (i.e. by May 1, 2018), with the help of states and local bodies. We are now confident that the target would be achieved before the deadline.

Did you try to adopt any renewable technologies to address electrification of rural or remote areas? What were the outcomes and how do you want to adapt them in the current scenario?
Out of remaining 18,452 un-electrified villages in the country (as on April 1, 2015), about 3,500 villages located in remote areas are planned to be electrified through renewable technologies, mainly Solar Photovoltaic. We are adopting both standalone systems for individual households as well as Solar PV based generation system with mini grid depending upon number of households in a village and their spatial distribution. Renewable energy based projects for these villages have been sanctioned this year under DDG component of DDUGJY and electrification of 180 un-electrified villages with off-grid solar power systems has been completed by March 11, 2016.

What are the problems in reaching power to remote areas through traditional means and that of rooftop/field based solar or other renewable sources?
Reaching the remote villages located in areas with difficult terrain, in snow bound hills or in deep forest, far-flung areas and especially transportation of requisite equipment/ material like poles; transformers; conductor etc. and erection of necessary electricity infrastructure in these areas is a challenge to extend grid with traditional means.

In case of rooftop/ field-based solar or other renewable sources, maintaining these systems on sustainable basis in long term is something that needs to be tackled adequately. Requisite service centres and training local youth for maintaining such systems can help in this regard.

How many villages or hamlets are to yet to be electrified in the country and by when you are planning to achieve electrification of all the villages?
As on April 1, 2015, 18,452 villages in the country were un-electrified. The year-wise phasing of targets is as under: During 2015-16, 6,397 un-electrified villages have been electrified as on March 11, 2016. With the support of states and local bodies, we are now confident that the target would be achieved within this time frame.

What is the kind of financial support available to the states in implementing DDUGJY/RGGVY? Would you like to suggest any other means for financing in the light of new technologies?
Under DDUGJY scheme, GOI is providing grant up to 90 per cent of the project cost for Special Category States (North East States, Himachal Pradesh, J&K and Uttarakhand) and up to 75 per cent for other than Special Category States, including additional grant up to 5 per cent for special category states (15 per cent for other states) subject to achievement of prescribed milestones.

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