Hopes dim for ‘24x7 Power for All’ from April 1

Twesh Mishra New Delhi | Updated on March 29, 2019 Published on March 29, 2019

The Centre has always maintained that the onus of providing sustained power supplies will be on the State government- controlled power distribution utilities   -  THE HINDU

Poor financial health of Discoms poses a hurdle to Centre’s promise

The government’s promise of 24x7 power supply for all from April 1 may remain a dream, going by the poor financial health of the power distribution utilities (Discoms).

While Delhi is the only State that has come out with an enabling legislation, the poor health of Discoms, unpredictable coal supply position and multiple lacunae in the power distribution sector have come as a roadblock for the other States, including Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Karnataka and Telangana.

Former Power Secretary Uma Shankar told BusinessLine that though there has been an increase in the number of households connected and in hours of power supply to them, the 24x7 target from April 1 looks difficult because of the financial health of the Discoms.

“While the country’s installed generation capacity to meet the needs of all households is adequate, the financial health of Discoms is such that they cannot procure that much electricity. There have been reports that there may be a second leg of Discom reforms, a UDAY II, to bring about improvement in their financial condition. It is only then that 24x7 power for all may happen,” he said.

Twin challenges

“Billing and metering remain a challenge across the country. The condition is worse in rural areas where Discoms do not have enough personnel for metering and bill collection. While those in the urban areas cannot live without electricity, inhabitants in the rural hinterlands still do not find a power cut unusual,” an official monitoring the progress of ‘Power for All’ said.

In 2017, the Ministry of Power had announced that there will be 24x7 power supply for all across the country by end-March 2019. This deadline was consistently repeated in multiple internal consultations and Minister of State (Independent Charge) for Power and New and Renewable Energy, RK Singh reaffirmed the Centre’s commitment for the same as late as February.

But, the Centre has always maintained that the onus of providing sustained power supplies will be on the State government- controlled power distribution utilities. “There is no constraint to supplying 24x7 power on the generation side or on the transmission. There are two main issues that pose a challenge to the goal,” Director-General of Association of Power Producers, Ashok Kumar Khurana, said.

“The first is the payment capability of Discoms. With dues of over ₹41,500 crore piling up from power generation companies, the Discoms may find it financially unviable to continue supplying power at tariffs which are not cost-reflective. The second challenge is the inadequate coal supply position in the country,” Khurana said.

While the Centre has claimed that the coal supply position has improved, the sector watchers maintain that the high stock position is a seasonal phenomenon. According to power generation companies, the higher coal stocks diminish when the power demand increases.

Delhi’s performance

Till now, Delhi is the only State that has managed to comply with the Centre’s diktat of culling gratuitous load shedding by Discoms. This has been done by enforcing a penalty for unscheduled power cuts.

“There is no load shedding in Delhi. This is despite Delhi’s peak power demand breaking all previous records. On July 10, 2018, it touched 7,016 MW, the highest ever recorded in the history of the city. In fact, Delhi’s peak power demand is substantially more than that of several cities and States,” an official at a private power distribution company said.

Published on March 29, 2019
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