Very soon, Indian citizen will pay for the electricity consumption, the way they pay for mobile talk time and flip between power supply companies like changing cable TV channels. A reasonable chunk of this power could stem from non-conventional sources of energy.
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This road map set out for the power sector by Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman in the second budget presentation. A total of Rs 22,000 crore has been earmarked in the budget for the power and renewable energy sector.
Re-vitalisation of the power supply sector apart, Sitharaman’s budgetary focus on the energy sector places a lot of emphasis on non-conventional energy, taking forward the government’s clean energy initiatives just like for the electric vehicle segment (EV) seen in the last budget. Investments in solar energy form a key part of this. One of the ambitious moves on this, inspired no doubt in small measure by similar feats at airports like Kochi and Delhi, would be setting up solar power panels in railway land across the country.
Taking the battle against climate change and focus on renewable energy further, the minister also proposed shutting down thermal power plants whose emission levels are above limit, with the suggestion that this land may be used for other productive endeavours. An outlay of Rs 4,400 crore has been set aside for clean air projects, as well.
Though electricity supply is a state subject, the Union budget’s focus on the electricity supply side has to be seen in perspective with the prime minister’s declaration a few months before the general elections that all of India’s villages have been electrified. Though that remains more on paper than in reality (one estimate puts thousands of houses with electricity meters but no supply), the aim now is to take this further and improve the efficiency of the supply chain, as many of the electricity DISCOMs (distribution companies, commonly referred to electricity supply and distribution companies) are in a bad shape. Technology, like pre-paid meters, to replace the present conventional meters for electricity by 2024, fits in with this target.
Taking electricity to every household has been a major reform of the Government. However, the distribution sector, particularly the DISCOMs are under financial stress. The Ministry of Power intends to promote smart metering.
I urge all the state and Union territories to replace conventional electricity meters by pre-paid smart meters in next three years. Also, this would give consumers the freedom to choose the supplier and the rate as per their requirements. This is a very important step in reaching electricity to all people,” Sitharaman said.
Another focus area of the government is on gas supply. The budget envisages increasing the national gas grid from the present 16,200km to reach 27,000km.