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New Delhi: Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s National Democratic Alliance (NDA) government is likely to spell out a plan to supply electricity through separate feeders for agricultural and rural household consumption in the Union budget it will unveil in July, aimed at eventually providing round-the-clock power.

The plan, based on the Jyotigram Yojana in Modi’s home state of Gujarat, may be made applicable across states to ensure around eight hours of quality power to agricultural consumers and 24-hour electricity to households.

In addition, the initiative, billed as “Power to all 24x7", also envisages complete metering and strengthening of the electricity distribution system.

“A plan is in the works. The states will have to satisfy certain eligibility conditions," said a senior government official on condition of anonymity.

“The scheme modelled on the lines of one in Gujarat could be announced in the Union budget. It will reduce redundancies in the system. The details are being worked out," the official said.

The finance ministry’s position on the scheme could not be ascertained. Ministry officials have been quarantined for the duration of the last phase of preparations for the NDA government’s first budget, which will be announced by finance minister Arun Jaitley on 10 July.

The scheme works like this: a separation of feeders ensures that while the agriculture sector gets the desired amount of electricity; the quality of power and its availability for households improves.

Also, availability of electricity ensures billing and reduction of technical and commercial losses due to theft and transmission. Billing losses are estimated at around 27% of the electricity generated in the country.

India’s minister in charge of power, coal, and new and renewable energy, Piyush Goyal, declined to comment on the initiative.

A second government official, who also didn’t want to be identified, said: “Feeder segregation is being discussed about as part of the ‘Power to all 24x7’ scheme. Around eight states have already implemented it."

According to the Central Electricity Authority, India’s apex power sector planning body, while the country has an installed power generation capacity of 248,509.63 megawatts (MW), it faced a peak deficit of 4.1% in May.

Analysts believe this is not a true indicator of the country’s demand and only reflects the distribution companies’ inability or unwillingness to buy enough power from generators.

Queries emailed to the power ministry’s spokesperson remained unanswered at the time of going to press.

“A note is being prepared for the ambitious feeder segregation plan relating to the investment required and the expected increase in the electricity demand in the country, given the fact that it will lead to round-the-clock electricity in the rural households," said a third government official on condition of anonymity.

“Around 8-10 hours of quality electricity supply is enough for the agricultural sector as anything more than that will deplete the groundwater tables," this official added.

The Gujarat government’s scheme has enabled the state to provide 24-hour power supply to rural areas. According to the Gujarat government, the scheme has led to a reduction in distribution losses, increases in local employment generation, and improved standards of living in rural areas, including better quality of education and improved health and sanitation facilities.

According to the Gujarat government’s energy and petrochemicals department, the scheme has the “potential for replication in other states", and has reduced migration from rural to urban areas.

The plan comes against the backdrop of the underperformance of the previous United Progressive Alliance government’s ambitious energy schemes—the Rajiv Gandhi Grameen Vidyutikaran Yojana (RGGVY) and the restructured Accelerated Power Development and Reform Programme (R-APDRP).

RGGVY was aimed at providing electricity to villages and connecting poor households across the country to the electricity grid. R-APDRP is meant to upgrade distribution systems, minimize transmission and distribution losses, improve metering and assign responsibility for the realization of user charges.

Mint had reported on 4 June 2010 that while some work had been completed in villages, a significant number of the villages had not yet been energized—which means power has not started flowing through the grid to the intended beneficiaries.

Apart from such delays, electricity was available in the villages only for a few hours every day because of the poor finances of state electricity boards.

Goyal has already spoken of his intention to roll out the Jyotigram Yojana across the country.

On a visit to Gujarat on 6 June, Goyal tweeted: “We also understood the Jyotigram Yojana in great detail & will leave no stone unturned for our dream of 24x7 power, pan-India in every home!"

Similarly, visiting Rajasthan on 17 June, Goyal tweeted: “Today’s meetings reinforced my belief that power crisis can be solved to a large extent by modernising T&D (transmission and distribution) infrastructure… Feeder segregation, metering consumption and harnessing our renewable energy potential."

The Bharatiya Janata Party, which leads the new government, had made energy security a part of its poll plank. This intention was articulated by President Pranab Mukherjee in his address to Parliament earlier this month. “Despite more than two-thirds of our people living in rural areas; we have not been able to provide adequate public amenities and livelihood opportunities to them," Mukherjee said.

“My government will come out with a comprehensive National Energy Policy and focus on development of energy-
related infrastructure, human resource and technology," Mukherjee added.

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