The shortage of equipment and people is hurting the ruling United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government’s flagship electrification and power distribution programmes.
The Rajiv Gandhi Grameen Vidyutikaran Yojana (RGGVY) and the Accelerated Power Development Reforms Programme (APDRP) have money to spend, but can’t find enough transformers, conductors, poles, insulators, and people trained to install these. While RGGVY has an outlay of Rs28,000 crore in the 11th Plan period, the funding for APDRP is yet to be finalized.
According to the power ministry, the power sector employs 950,000 people, of which 716,000 are technical staff. That isn’t adequate and the requirement of employees is expected to reach 1.2 million by 2012-end. The situation is the same with equipment.
India currently has the capacity to produce transformers with an aggregate output of 110,000 megavolt ampere (MVA) compared with a demand for transformers with an aggregate output of 130,000MVA.
“Worried by the supply-demand mismatch, the power ministry has called a meeting of power utilities, contractors and equipment manufacturing companies on 10 April to tide over this crisis,” said a senior government official, who did not wish to be identified.
The meeting comes at a time when the government is also concerned about the ability of state-run power equipment maker Bharat Heavy Electricals Ltd (Bhel) to meet the growing demand for equipment. India allows 100% foreign direct investment in the power sector.
“Shortage of cold roll grain-oriented steel (a raw material used in the manufacture of transformers) has led to this transformer problem in the country. However, we are already expanding and with the commissioning of our Bhopal unit, we will have additional transformer capacity,” said K. Ravi Kumar, director (power) and acting chairman and managing director of Bhel.
In April 2007, a parliamentary standing committee on energy attributed India’s inability to meet its power generation target for the 10th Plan period (2002-07) on Bhel’s inability to acquire the technology and build the capacity required to supply equipment.
While RGGVY aims to bring electricity to 125,000 villages, APDRP is aiming at upgrading the distribution system, minimizing transmission and distribution losses from 40% to 15%, improving metering, and assigning responsibility for realization of user charges.
Both the schemes have been grossly underperforming in relation to targets as reported by Mint on 5 October and 24 August.
“Delay in finalization of funds combined with the shortage of equipment and manpower has made certain that we will not be able to achieve the objectives in the prescribed time period,” the government official added.
“As a short-term measure, the government should attract overseas contractors and equipment manufacturers in order to allow the domestic companies to ramp up their capacity,” said Kuljit Singh, a partner at audit and consulting firm Ernst and Young.
Shortage of equipment such as boilers and turbines, and contractors has already affected the country’s power generation plans as reported by Mint on 28 August.