MODI@2: I don’t get carried away by praise: Piyush Goyal

Richa Mishra Debabrata Das | Updated on January 27, 2018

Piyush Goyal

Right after Piyush Goyal took office as Minister of State (Independent Charge) for Power, Coal, New & Renewable Energy, he faced what he calls “baptism by fire.” Delhi, the power capital with more VVIPs per square kilometre than any other city in India, faced its worst power cut. It was symptomatic of larger problems in India’s energy sector – from the deallocation of coal blocks to fuel supply issues – all of which Goyal has been addressing. Last year, he was dubbed by a magazine as a “non-performer”, but today the near-unanimous verdict among observers is that he is one of the stellar performers in Narendra Modi’s Council of Ministers. In an interview to BusinessLine, however, Goyal says these labels mean nothing to him. Excerpts:

How does it feel to be acknowledged as an ‘achiever’?

Last year, one weekly publication had given me the worst rating (within the government) for my performance. That did not deter me. I called my team said, ‘We all have to perk up and do a lot more.’

This year, too, one agency has given me the lowest ranking. I think I need to do a lot more work this year also. I don’t get carried away by any praise; I know I have miles to go.

What is on your agenda for this year?

In 2016-17, my focus will be to prepare a long-term growth demand plan for the power sector, and encourage wind and hydro energy segment, while maintaining the thrust on solar.

While many issues have been resolved or are being resolved, transmission will be another focus area. We want to expand transmission to South India, for example. We have already increased transmission capacity by 70 per cent in the first two years; we will add to that in the next 1-2 years. Effectively, we will make it three times what we had inherited. By 2019-20 it will become 18,000 MW, or five times what I inherited.

Coal production will be increased so that we continue to reduce imports. The recent Cabinet decision to allow flexibility of coal linkage use by the States is a game-changer.

What kind of an energy mix are you looking at for India, and what does it mean for tariffs?

Renewable energy is not more expensive than fossil fuel when you factor in life-cycle costs. For example, solar power is being sold at ₹5 a unit for the next 25 years. No fossil fuel gives us a commitment to supply power at these prices for the next 25 years while being non-polluting also. So, renewable energy makes a lot of economic sense. But, yes, affordability is my prime concern.

Having said that, as far as coal imports are concerned, coking coal is still not available in adequate amounts in India, so we may continue to import that until we find more deposits.

The UDAY programme to revive discoms has drawn criticism…

It is a grand success. The country has demonstrated to the world that all the naysayers were wrong. Our programmes and our plans turned out to be the best thing for India.

You took a gamble when you decided to fire up the stranded gas-based power plants with imported fuel through a subsidy scheme. But that seems to have paid off.

It was not a gamble. Give us credit for some well-thought-out plans! When you give a good offer, people take it.

The rural electrification programme is a carry-forward from the previous regime, but what impeded your predecessors from implementing it with similar vigour?

This should be ideally answered by the previous Minister. I think the biggest challenge is to have decisive leadership, which is required to implement bold measures. This was missing in the last 10 years. Prime Minister Modi keeps challenging the system to keep performing better and better. He sets aggressive targets, and the whole system has to act. Also, with the infusion of transparency in the system, we get much bigger outcomes for every rupee spent.

Published on May 22, 2016

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