Saturday, November 07, 2015

Energy Poverty

According to the World Bank, 78.7 percent of the population in India has access to electricity. Another report states that by 2012, the national electricity grid has reached 92 percent of its population, i.e., 880 million people.

On the face of it this bit of data may sound impressive for a country with 1.2 billion people spread across 3.2 million square kilometers.

Now you look at the statements more carefully, your realize that it does not hold much meaning on the ground. When an electricity line is pulled into a village it does indeed get connected to the grid, enough for a village to be declared as "electrified", but it certainly does not mean that every household has access to power supply when they need it the most.

Neither does available data give an indication of the quality of power supplied to the village. For instance, a village in Westren Uttar Pradesh, not too far from the National Capital Region of Delhi, may have electricity poles running along one of its roads, but its of no use to the villagers if even the streetlights do not light up at night.

A major part of this problem is the way in which state-level electricity agencies are managed. Over the years, their level of reliability - and credibility- has dropped so low that people are just now willing to pay for poor service. With little money coming in from its customers, these agencies do not have the capacity to buy electricity from the power plants. So we now have this amazing situation where the country has an installed power generation capacity of 272,503MW, but out of this, only only around 145,000MW is operational -- just 53 percent! -- because the distributors do not have the money to buy what is readily available.

This brings us to the issue of cost of power generation, profit margins, and the tariff that the customers are ready to pay for reliable electricity supply.

Is there any data available to show the number of hours of "reliable electricity supply" in the rural and urban areas, across the country?


* WB (2011-15) - Access to Electricity -

* WB (2015) - Power for All - India -

* Andhra Pradesh - Power for All ( PFA 2015) --
- Energy and peak demand -  43,684 MU & 6,158 MW

* Bhaskar, Utpal (2015): India's per capita consumption of electricity reaches 1010 kWh --
- India has an installed power generation capacity of 272,503MW, but out of this, only only around 145,000MW is operational -- just 53 percent!

* Bhaskar, Utpal (2014): India faces daily power outage of 30,000 MW --
- Even with one of the lowest per-capital electricity consumption in the world (India 940 kWh; Chine 4000 kWh), power plants in India run far below their capacities because it customers (state electricity agencies) just cannot afford to buy the quantum they need!

* Much of rural India still waits for electricity (2013) --

* Chakravorty, Pelli and Marchand (2013) - Does the quality of electricity matter? Evidence from Rural India --

More at:

* Misra, Udit (23Nov15, IE) - Surplus. shortages go together in Power paradox --
. T&D losses account for almost 25% - double global average of 12%
. Remaining 75% is sold at prices that are much lower than the procurement cost of the discoms!

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