Time was when most villages in India used primitive means to light up their houses and cook their food. These villages were out of the radar of electricity.
Today, “almost all the villages in the country have been electrified,” in the words of prime minister Dr. Manmohan Singh . In his Red fort address on August 15,2012, he said the government would take steps to ensure that every house in every village would be provided with electricity in the nest five years-2017. Great news for the villagers!
However, performance and record so far have not been too encouraging.
According to a 2011 data given by the International Energy Agency, of the 1.4 billion people of the world who have no access to electricity, India accounts for over 300 million. Some 800 million Indians use traditional fuels – Fuel wood, agricultural waste and biomass cakes – for cooking and general heating needs. The Agency estimates India needs an investment of at least 135 billion dollars to provide universal access of electricity to its population.
At the time of independence, there were a total of 1500 villages which had electricity. The country had since marched ahead and achieved electrification of over 493,000 villages by the end of July 2009.
In fact , the government in 2004 had promised that it would provide electricity to all villages by 2012. The programme in 2004 had envisaged 100% village electrification by 2009 and 100% household electrification by 2012. But the targets were missed. The original target, according to the Planning Commission, had envisaged electrifying at least 156,00,000 households per year for the following three years.
Rural Electricity involves supply of energy for two types of programmes- production oriented activities like minor irrigation , rural industries etc electrification villages.
According to an earlier definition, a village is classified if electricity is being used within its revenue area for any purpose whatsoever.
This definition of village electrification was reviewed in consultation with the State Governments and State Electricity Boards and a new definition was adopted. A village will be deemed to be electrified if electricity is used in the village for any purpose whatsoever . The number of household electrified should be minimum 10% for villages which are unelectrified, before the village is declared electrified.
Rural electrification was taken up in each of the Five year Plan. Each plan had programmes ear marked for village electrification.
While some of these programmes were implemented in certain designated schemes, others were implemented as routine plan implementation.
The rural electrification programme got a boost in the period of the third Five year plan, with the establishment of the “Rural Electrification is concerned, with some of the other five year plans not even reaching half of its slated targets of electrification. The first Five year Plan (1951-56): Support for irrigation Projects. Track record of rural electrification was 1 electrified village per 200 villages.
Five year plans
The second five year plan (1956-61): “Rural Electrification” declared as “ Special interest area “, and proposed to cover all towns with a population of 10,000 or more . Only 350 out of a total of 856 were eventually electrified. The third Five year Plan (1961-66) ensured the establishment of the “ Rural Electrification Corporation” and over 30,000 villages were electrified, as against a target of 37,000 villages.
The fourth and fifth five year plan (1969-74 and 1974-1979) focused on target areas such as energization of pump sets and also issued guidelines for village grind connectivity for all villages with a population of 5000 and above.
The sixth, seventh and eighth five year plan (1980-89 and 1992-1997) saw a number of projects such as “ improved chulhas or cook stoves”, “Bio-gas plants” etc. These plans also saw the establishment of the Ministry of New and renewable Energy or MNRE. This period saw the launch of “ accelerated rural electrification programme”
The ninth, the tenth and the current eleventh Five year plan (1997-2012) saw the launch of kutir jyothi Yojana and the Rajiv Gandhi Rural Electrification programme.
The rural electrification programme is currently under a comprehensive scheme called the “Rajiv Gandhi Grameen Vidyutikaran Yojana”, which was launched in 2005. This programme has taken over the hitherto existing schemes such as the “ Kutir Jyoti Yojana” and also adopted some salient features of the earlier electrification programmes and incentives of the Government such as , the Minimum Needs Programme, the Pradhan Mantri Gramodaya Yojana, the Accelerated Rural Electrification Programme and the Accelerated Electrification of 100,000 villages and one crore households.
The current programme envisaged the creation of a rural electricity distribution backbone with at least one 33/11KV sub-stations of adequate capacity in geographical blocks where these do not exist, a village electrification infrastructure with distribution transformers of appropriate capacity in villages and other habitations and decentralized distribution generation systems based on conventional sources where grid electricity supply is not feasible or cost effective.
The rural electrification programme aims at providing grid or centralized electricity to a many villages as possible and looks at a decentralized or distributed generation approach only in areas where grid infrastructure may seem difficult due to either tough or hilly terrains or remote areas which are not serviceable through normal transmission lines.
The rural electrification programme literally took off only in the mind 1950s, and saw a rather steep growth in village electrification in the 1960s, 70s and 80s up till 1990. The three decades between 1960 and 1990 saw close to 450,000 villages being electrified. This put the average number of villages electrified during that period at 15,000 per annum.
However , the period from 1991 to 2009 saw a huge slump in the speed of rural electrification, with just about 12,116 villages being electrified from a total of 481,124 electrified up till 1990 to 493,240 villages electrified up till December 2009. The average number of villages electrified in this period(1991-2009) was 637 per annum. In the mid 1990s and early 2000, India saw a wide range of reforms in the electricity sector, starting from unbundling of the various operations in the sector such as, generation, transmission and distribution amongst separate companies, privatizing some of the operations , introducing a regulatory framework both at the central level as well the state level and in the formulation and promulgation of a new electricity act to replace all the then existing laws governing the electricity sector.
The period since the mid 2000 continued to see a slump in the progress of rural electrification primarily due to the challenge of providing transmission and distribution infrastructure to rural areas. With the villages closer to the grid and the major towns and cities having already been electrified , what remained un-electrifies were villages which were far from main grid lines and towns. Experts say that the fact that the governments were determined to provide villages with centralized grid electricity connection and not look at decentralized models was the main problem of slow electrification and continues to remain the main problem.
The International Energy Agency estimates India will add between 600 GW to 1200 GW of additional new power generation capacity is equivalent to the 740GW of total power generation capacity of European Union (EU-27)in 2005.
As of December 2011, India has an installed capacity of about 22.4 GW of renewal technologies based electricity, exceeding the total installed electricity capacity in Austria by all technologies.
There are a few designated programmes, including renewable energy schemes that are now being implemented with some success.
Under Rajiv Gandhi Grameen Vidhyuthikaran Yojana (RGGVY) programme, 90% capital subsidy was provided for rural electrification infrastructure. The remaining 10% was loan assistance on soft terms by REC. The scheme , inter-alia, provided for funding of electrification of all un-electrified Below Poverty Line (BPL) households with 100% capital subsidy. The scheme aimed at electrifying all un-electrified villages over a period of four years and provides access to electricity to all rural households . India has over 600,000 villages and hamlets put together , with over a 100 million households in the rural areas alone.
The National Solar Mission.
The Government in November 2009 approved the Jawaharlal Nehru National Solar Mission , Which creates policy conditions for quick renewable energy diffusion across the country. 20,000 MW of solar energy is to be deployed by 2022 through leveraging domestic and foreign investments, engaging in research and development, manufacturing and deployment to make this sector competitive internationally. In 2010 the Mission has gained investments in 200 MW of grid-connected solar power plants, with another 500 MW to be implemented soon.
Wind and Hydro Energy Expansion
The Ministry of Non-conventional Energy sources has introduced generation – based incentives, where investors receive a financial incentive per unit of electricity generated over ten years. This should create a level playing field between domestic and foreign investors, which should drive more investment in this area. The Global Wind Energy Council (GWEC) estimates conservatively that the wind energy capacity in India could be 24 GW by 2020 and 30.5 GW by 2030. If all planned policies are implemented and all current targets met, capacity could be as high as 40 GW in 2020 and 108 GW in 2030.
Presently, small hydro (up to 25 MW) has capacity of over 15,000 MW in India . About 300MW per year (2,700 MW total) is being installed, with 70% of Investments coming from the private sector. Hydro projects up to 25MW capacities are termed as small hydro , and this energy stream has a potential of over 15,000MW.
The aim is to double the current rate of growth, including 500MW per year in the next few years.