Round-the-clock power supply in most of rural India remains a distant dream with many States far behind in ensuring 24x7 electricity for these regions.
According to data shared by the Ministry of Power in the Lok Sabha, Haryana, Sikkim, Jammu & Kashmir, Ladakh, Mizoram and Arunachal Pradesh received less than 17 hours a day in August. But rural areas of eight States continue to receive round the clock electricity. These are Gujarat, Himachal Pradesh, Kerala, Maharashtra, Punjab, Tamil Nadu, Telangana and West Bengal.
The situation has improved from last year in many States with Jammu and Kashmir, Odisha, Haryana and Manipur reporting an increase of one hour or more in average hours of electricity supplied to villages during 2020 compared to 2019.
But electricity supply deteriorated significantly in Bihar and Uttarakhand. Average hours of electricity supply in rural Bihar fell to 20.27 hours a day in August, 1 hour 48 minutes lesser than the 22.07 hours a day supply in April 2019. The situation deteriorated the most in rural Uttarakhand where the electricity supply was down by nearly five-and-a-half hours a day at 18.21 hours a day in August.
The decrease in supply persisted despite peak power demand being lower in August at 167,535 MW. The peak power supply was at 167,499 MW, reflecting a peak deficit of just 36 MW for the country. In April 2019, the peak power demand was higher at 177,424 MW, power supplied was 176,810 MW and a peak deficit of 613 MW was reported to the Central Electricity Authority.
The difference in peak demand and supply reflects the inability of power generation companies (Gencos) to meet the requirements raised by Power Distribution Companies (Discoms). There was lesser demand from Discoms in August on the back of a slowing industrial activity. And since there was sufficient coal at power plants, the Gencos were easily able to meet the demands raised by the Discoms.
According to Coal Minister, Pralhad Joshi, “The coal stock at thermal power plants increased from 20.41 million tonne (mt) on September 10, 2019 to 35.96 mt on September 10, 2020 which is sufficient for 20 days consumption. Further, coal stock at non-pithead plants increased from 16.95 mt on September 10, 2019 to 30.11 mt on September 10, 2020 which is sufficient for 22 days of coal consumption by the non-pithead power plants.”
The power supply deficit in rural areas persists despite ample coal availability and electricity generation capacity. This is because most Discoms continue to remain stressed and struggle to make timely payments for electricity purchases they make from Gencos. According to the Power Ministry’s PRAAPTI portal, the total overdue amount to Gencos as on July 2020 stood at ₹1,16,889 crore.