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Electricity For All

Electricity For All

UPSC CSE -SYLLABUS:GENERAL STUDIES-3-Infrastructure: Energy, Ports, Roads, Airports, Railwaysetc

Electricity For All

  • Almost every willing household in India now has a legitimate electricity connection. The household electrification scheme, PradhanMantriSahajBijliHarGharYojana, or Saubhagya, has been implemented at an unprecedented pace. 
  • The efforts under Saubhagya have come upon decades of hard work preceding it. The enactment of the Electricity Act, in 2003, and the introduction of the Rajiv Gandhi GrameenVidyutikaranYojana, in 2005, expanded electrification infrastructure to most villages in the following decade.
  • But the rollout of the Saubhagya scheme, in 2017, gave the required impetus to electrify each willing household in the country.

Scope of the Scheme:

  • Providing last mile connectivity and electricity connections to all un-electrified households in rural areas.
  • Providing Solar Photovoltaic (SPV) based standalone system for un-electrified households located in remote and inaccessible villages/habitations, where grid extension is not feasible or cost-effective.
  • Providing last mile connectivity and electricity connections to all remaining economically poor un-electrified households in urban areas.
  • Non-poor urban households are excluded from this scheme.

Salient Features of Saubhagya are:

  • All DISCOMs including Private Sector DISCOMs, State Power Departments and RE Cooperative Societies shall be eligible for financial assistance under the scheme in line with DDUGJY.
  • The prospective beneficiary households for free electricity connections under the scheme would be identified using SECC 2011 data.
  • However, un-electrified households not covered under SECC data would also be provided electricity connections under the scheme on payment of Rs. 500 which shall be recovered by DISCOMs in 10 installments through electricity bill. 
  • The electricity connections to un-electrified households include provision of service line cable, energy meter including pre-paid/smart meter, single point wiring.
  • LED lamps and associated accessories in line with technical specifications and construction standard.
  • In case of un-electrified households located in remote and inaccessible areas, power packs of 200 to 300 Wp(with battery bank) with a maximum of 5 LED lights, 1 DC Fan, 1 DC power plug etc. may be provided along with the provision of Repair and Maintenance (R&M) for 5 years.
  • The details of consumers viz, Name and Aadhar number/ Mobile number/ Bank account/ Driving License/Voter ID etc., as available would be collected by the DISCOMs.
  • The defaulters whose connections have been disconnected should not be given benefit of the scheme.
  • However, the utilities may consider settlement of old dues and reconnection as per norms.

The list of benefits under the PradhanMantriSahajBijliHarGharYojana is as follows:

  • Access to electricity to all willing households
  • Substitution to kerosene
  • Improvement in educational services
  • Improvement in health services
  • Improvement in communications
  • Improvement in public safety
  • Increased job opportunities
  • Better quality of life, especially for women, in daily chores

Issue:

  • The creation of electricity connection with erection of electricity poles and an extension of wires do not necessarily mean uninterrupted power flow to households. 
  • The Access to Clean Cooking Energy and Electricity Survey of States (ACCESS) report by the CEEW, has highlighted the gap between a connection and reliable power supply.

Measures needed:

  • In order to achieve 24×7 power for all, there is a need to focus on three frontiers. 
  • First, India needs real-time monitoring of supply at the end-user level. Only such granular monitoring can help track the evolving reality of electricity supply on the ground and guide discoms to act in areas with sub-optimal performance. 
  • Eventually, smart meters (that the government plans to roll out) should help enable such monitoring. However, in the interim, we could rely on interactive voice response systems (IVRS) and SMS-based reporting by end-users.
  • Second, discoms need to focus on improving the quality of supply as well as maintenance services. Adequate demand estimation and respective power procurement will go a long way in reducing load shedding. 
  • Moreover, about half the rural population across the six States reported at least two days of 24-hour-long unpredictable blackouts in a month.
  • Such incidents are indicative of poor maintenance, as opposed to intentional load-shedding.
  • Discoms need to identify novel cost-effective approaches to maintain infrastructure in these far-flung areas. 
  • Some States have already taken a lead in this.
  • Odisha has outsourced infrastructure maintenance in some of its rural areas to franchisees, while Maharashtra has introduced village-level coordinators to address local-level challenges.
  • Such context-based solutions should emerge in other States as well.
  • Finally, the improvement in supply should be complemented with a significant improvement in customer service, which includes billing, metering and collection. 
  • Around 27% of the electrified rural households in the six States were not paying anything for their electricity.
  • Despite the subsidies, constant loss of revenue would make it unviable for discoms to continue servicing these households in the long run. 
  • Low consumer density along with difficult accessibility mean that conventional approaches involving meter readers and payment collection centres will be unviable for many rural areas. 
  • There is a need for radically innovative approaches such as the proposed prepaid smart meters and last-mile rural franchisees to improve customer service and revenue collection.

SOURCE:” The Hindu.”

POSSIBLE UPSC MAINS EXAMINATION:

With the Saubhagya scheme electricity for all the willing population has been achieved but still reports show that it has not resulted in an uninterrupted power supply. In this context suggest measures needed to provide quality supply of uninterrupted power for all.