Rural Electrification has been one of the key focus areas for the current government.The vision of “Power for All” has been shining brightly in the eyes of government and it aims to electrify all villages by May 2018.The following post will look at the current status of Rural Electrification and various initiatives taken by the government to achieve this target.
Meaning of Electrification
As per the earlier definition of Rural electrification “A village is classified as electrified if electricity is being used within its revenue area for any purpose what. so-ever..” However, the definition needs some revision and the overall purview of Electrification is currently amended definition of Electrification as follows :
The basic infrastructure such as distribution transformer and or distribution lines is made available in the inhabited locality within the revenue boundary of the village including at least one hamlet/Dalit Basti as applicable and
- Any of the public places like Schools, Panchayat Office, Health Centers, Dispensaries, Community centers etc. avail power supply on demand and
- The ratings of distribution transformer and LT lines to be provided in the village would be finalized as per the anticipated number of connections decided in consultation with the Panchayat/Zila Parishad/District Administration who will also issue the necessary certificate of village electrification on completion of the works.
- The number of household electrified should be minimum 10% for villages which are un-electrified, before the village is declared electrified. The revision of definition would be prospective.
Thus,as per the above definition it requires only 10 % of the households in a village to be connected for it to be classified as “electrified”. This implies that even if a large number of households remain un-electrified after covering 10%, still the village will qualify to be called as “Electrified”moreover, the definition doesn’t specify the minimum number of hours of electricity supply in the villages.
Initiatives/Schemes in Rural Electrification
Prima-facie, a couple of major steps have been taken by the earlier government and the current government.Some of these are :
- Establishment of REC (Rural Electrification Corporation) : REC was established in the 1969 with the objective of providing finance and promoting finance and promoting rural electrification across the country.Its main objective is to finance and promote rural electrification projects all over the country. It provides financial assistance to State Electricity Boards, State Government Departments and Rural Electric Cooperatives for rural electrification projects as are sponsored by them.
- RGGVY (Rajiv Gandhi Grameen Vidyutikaran Yojana) It was launched in April 2005 for attaining the National Common Minimum Program goal of providing access to electricity to each and every household within a period of 5 years.The scheme was to officially end in 2009 ,however, due to non-attainment of the targets, certain allocation were made for the continuation in the 12th plan period (2012 -17). In terms of achieving the targets of lighting up unelectrified villages, the performance was much better in the initial years than in the last three years of the program.
- DDUGY(DeenDayal Upadhyaya Gram jyoti Yojana) : In Dec’14, the government announced DDUGY with some modification to the RGGVY scheme already in progress.It aims feeder segregation and strengthening of sub-transmission and distribution infrastructure in rural areas including metering of distribution transformers/feeders/consumers part from electrification of unelectrified villages,household.
As per the revised targets set by REC vis-a-vis government of India , 2,21,424 villages to be electrified out of which 95,977 have already been electrified ( Dated 20.04.2016 http://garv.gov.in/dashboard ) . Nine states (AP , Goa , Haryana, Kerala,Maharashtra,Punjab,Sikkim and Tamil Nadu) have achieved 100 % of the village electrification.Bihar is the worst performer in terms of household electrification. While 97 percent of the Bihar’s village are electrified, only 12 percent homes have electricity connections.
- Location specific technologies like solar,wind,mini-hydel so that target of electrification reach the granular level of society.
- Technological improvement required at the micro level so that the systems are well maintained over longer duration with requisite maintenance strategies.
- Last but not the least, there are still so many villages across India which have not experience the word “Electricity” and they are to be helped with utmost priority.
Introduction of REC(https://www.recregistryindia.nic.in/index.php/general/publics/AboutREC) trading framework has been a significant step in 2010,transforming the renewable energy market to go for market based modelled approach. Success/ Failure of the REC Trading framework can be gauged from the inventory being built up in monthly trading sessions. Of the 712792 RECs put up for sale in the two power exchanges in Sep 2012 session, about 450000 remained unsold and moreover 37% of the REC holders didn’t participate in the trading session at that time. This growing demand supply mismatch is giving alarming bells to the project developers and various potential investors who are eager to invest in RE sector in the near future.
REC mechanism seeks to expand its horizon from resource rich states to the deficit states but the key factor which will lead to success of REC is the RPOs by various obligated entities. Nonetheless state power regulators need to play a proactive role in the development of REC market. Till date all states except Arunachal Pradesh and Sikkim have declared their RPOs explicitly(http://ceew.in/pdf/Appendix_F-Renewable_Purchase_Obligation_for_States.pdf).
A survey was conducted to gauge the total renewable energy capacity of states,RPOs declared by them, CUFs of various renewable sources of energy. It has been analysed that only 4 states -Tamil Nadu, Gujarat, Karnataka and Maharashtra have significant wind power installations and RPOs higher than those required in 2010-11 and 2011-12.For eg Tamil Nadu needed about 4000MW of renewable energy capacity to meet its RPO of 14 % and it has already installed capacity of 4908MW.Except these states, rest of them were unable to meet their solar RPOs.
-There is huge inconsistency in RPO norms across the states. NAPCC,2008 targets 5% of the total grid purchase to be achieved through renewable energy. However in the absence of national level RPOs, states have been fixing their own targets depending upon the availability of renewable energy in that particular area.
-Another risk that is quite prominent as far as REC market is concerned- regulatory capture by the obligated entities which further skews the market against developers and investors. Certain states have been revising their RPOs targets in a downward trend for e.g Tamil Nadu(wind rich state) revised from 14% (2010-11) to 10% (2011-12).According to regulators, unrealistic targets imposed by some state regulators could set a wrong precedent not only for the state. Similarly, in April 2012, MP Power Trading Company Ltd. requested MPERC to waive RPO targets for solar energy for 2011-12 and 2012-13 because no solar power plant has been commissioned in MP and solar RECs were not available for trading on any one of the exchanges.
-RPO setting in most of the states is based on the assessments that are outdated. Therefore, they are set much lower than what could be feasible. Some stake holders are worried about the impact on tariff due to these targets. Like a study conducted by CRISIL along with CERC indicated that compliance with NAPCC target will have a marginal tariff impact of Re 0.01/unit/consumer ,reducing every year to reach Re 0.005/unit/consumer by 2017.
-Another risk that is anticipated by developers is lack of visible long term RPO trajectory. Only 7 states(AP,karnataka, Delhi, HP, Kerela, Maharashtra, Odisha) have declared their RPO trajectory till 2015-16 or beyond.
Limited Focus on CPPs and Open Access consumers
While most of the states have amended their regulations to include open access customers and CPPs under the purview of RPO but still there are some states which have not notified their OA and CPP consumers to meet RPOs. The glim scenario can be seen from the trading of RECs over IEX in which over 90% of the participants are DISCOMs and there have been very few CPPs and Open Access users. But there are states like Karnataka i.e KPTCL directed OA users in the state to fulfill 5% RPO for 2011-12.Similary Chattisgarh has also notified CPPs to provide RPO compliance on monthly basis.
Recently Rajasthan high court dismissed an appeal raised by Hindustan Zinc, Ambuja Cements etc that had challenged RPO regulation enacted by RERC. The petitioners stated that RERC did not have authority to pass the RPO regulation and impose a surcharge(penalty) as CPPs and OA were completely de-licensed under EA 2003.However Jaipur bench of High court rejected the petition stating the exact meaning of word ‘total consumption’ as total consumption in the area of distribution licensees in all modes. One of the reason for non compliance is the lack of incentive mechanism to support RPO implementation.
-A key stumbling block in the implementation of RPO is the financially strained DISCOMs. Burdened with over 2 trillion of losses, how can one expect DISCOMs buying costly RECs? However a recent development is the Debt restructuring for the DISCOMs(http://powermin.nic.in/whats_new/pdf/Financial_restructuring_of_State_Distribution_Companies_discoms_Oct2012.pdf)
-Another encouraging trend is that several DISCOMs have been facing losses due to their inability to hike tariffs but recently over 17 states have revised their tariffs giving a good signal to the market stabilization for RE.
Need to Improve REC Market Design
-There is lack of visibility in floor and forbearance price beyond the initial five year period because only non PPAs based sales are eligible for RECs.
-REC trading is restricted to auction markets and can be conducted only on a “once through” basis, thereby not permitting forward contracting and liquidity reduction.There is a sheer need of secondary trading market,which both the exchanges as well as industry players have been seeking for some time.
-Finally compliance window has to be shortened to a quarter or half year to ensure that there is continuous procurement action on obligated entities.
Thus,REC markets will fail to bring the desired results unless regulators are empowered to enforce the RPOSs and DISCOMs are allowed to function as independent power utilities rather than as an arm of government.
References: Power Line Magazine,MNRE Website, ICRA report on DISCOM bailout,REC registry,RE Connect etc.