1st January 2020 – Electricity key to nation’s development

Modern energy access, particularly to electricity, is crucial to a country’s development journey. In fact, surviving without electricity in our modern lives is incomprehensible as lighting, water, sanitation, entertainment, education, healthcare, mobile charging. And with the future of mobility moving towards electricity makes it ubiquitous.

Sustainable Development Goals –

  • The Sustainable Development Goals were set in 2015 by the United Nations General Assembly and intended to be achieved by 2030.
  • SDG 7 aims to “ensure access to affordable, reliable, and modern energy for all by 2030, including universal access to electricity and clean cooking, a greater share of renewables in the energy mix, and a doubling of the rate of improvement of energy efficiency”.
  • The focus on electrification in its national policies, and the allocated substantial resources to increasing electricity access, is evident. Given its large population without electricity access, India’s achievement will contribute greatly to achieving the UN’s SDG7 by 2030.

Electrification –

  • The Indian government considers a village to be electrified if basic infrastructure, such as schools, and at least 10% of households are connected to the grid.
  • Electricity access provided to households through on-grid, mini-grids, and off-grid systems led to confusion. The government has reiterated the country’s attempt at 100% households being electrified through the ‘Pradhan Mantri Sahaj Bijli Har Ghar Yojana’- Saubhagya.

Fulfilling core objectives – The Way forward –

  • We cannot ignore the importance of energy access, which is at the core of economic policy. It has been achieved at the first level.
  • Now the focus must shift to providing reliable, affordable and quality service to households with electricity.
  • Under the current programme, the government provides capital for new investments in rural networks, but has little to offer to the states to maintain quality supply or access to affordable electricity to the poor. Providing both access and service reliability is key to increasing India’s electricity adoption rate.
  • Currently, distribution companies tend to under-invest in rural electrification, as it generates insufficient revenue. This leads to unreliable supply. Thus, subsidies or incentives to build lines must include appropriate investments for maintenance.
  • The success of the electricity access programme will ultimately fall on the state electricity distribution companies, or discoms. The incentive to serve the newly added rural consumers is low owing to low electricity prices and lack of subsidies for operation and maintenance. These companies are also struggling financially due to lack of cost-reflective tariffs and operational inefficiencies. Ujwal DISCOM Assurance Yojana (UDAY) must be made more efficient to reduce financial stress.

SourceLivemint

QUESTIONEnergy access remains at the core of India’s economic growth story. Examine how it can provide the necessary impetus to make the economic growth more inclusive.

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