ELECTRICITY IN INDIA?
Ashok Dhillon, Chairman & CEO, Canasia Power
India is a place that we in North American can no
longer ignore economically or otherwise. Yet it suffers
from power shortages that are crippling to its development
and subject its population, both in the cities and
in rural areas, to a standard of living that would
be considered intolerable in developed countries.
While the shortages of electric power is not the
only reason for the standard of living for the average
Indian, being what it is but it contributes significantly
to the overall underdevelopment and misery.
It is not possible, in today’s environment,
for a country to have progress and sustainable development
in any sector, social or industrial, without electricity.
Without electric power there can be no industrial
growth, no modern medical facilities, no proper educational
facilities, no basic facilities like water, let alone
clean water, no proper sanitation, no means to protect
oneself from the harsh climatic conditions and no
way to provide a better future for the next generation.
One can go on forever listing the damage caused
to societies when, there is not enough electricity
to provide the basic energy required to energize the
infrastructure that is a must if a society is to maintain
any semblance of acceptable living standards. A couple
of weeks of interrupted power, due to ice-storms in
Canada and the United States, caused havoc in the
lives of the people affected. Hundreds of millions
of dollars worth of physical damage was estimated,
a few billions of estimated economic loss occurred
due to disruptions to business activity. Hundreds
of people were injured and some died, due to the loss
of protection from the extreme weather conditions.
If this kind of damage is sustained in a matter
of weeks in the most developed countries of the world,
in human health and economic loss, due to the lack
of electricity, then it is fair to say, that the damage
to human lives and economic losses sustained by countries
like India with people numbering over a billion, is
The numbers quoted in the various studies, trying
to quantify the damage done to human lives due to
a lack of a basic need such as electricity and the
domino effect it has on other vital basic needs such
as water, sanitation, food, transportation, medical
facilities, education, etc. are at best highly inaccurate
and at the worst, totally meaningless for there is
no way to quantify the damage that is being done on
a day to day, month to month and year to year basis.
All one can say when you look at a State such as
U.P., trying to get by with 3,500 MW of power available
to it, that the damage being done to its 150 million
people both in economic and personal terms is unimaginable.
The same can be said for the country as it tries to
move forward into the 21st century with over a billion
people dependent on less than 100,000 MW of power
available at any given time.
To try to correct this intolerable situation the
private sector was called to step in and invest in
the Power Sector, but when the private sector responded
hardly any real support was extended by either the
State or Central Governments or the various development
agencies. Well known clichés and conditions
were trotted out to excuse the chronic apathy of the
government agencies for their non-performance. The
multi-lateral agencies such as the World Bank assisted
these entrenched agencies by not demanding performance
from them but tacitly supported them by excusing their
damaging behavior by claiming that they can not “demand”
performance but can only “encourage” it.
The result is that after practically a decade of
the so-called liberalization of the Power Sector,
hardly any improvement can be discerned in the quantity
and quality of the power supply situation.
In most areas of the Country and the State, if one
is to ask the common man, the answer is swift and
unequivocal, the power situation for them is worse
than it has ever been before.
The Government of India has projected incremental
demand at approximately 9% per annum in the Country,
on 115,000 MW of installed capacity. That would require
over 10,000 MW of power to be added on an annual basis
just to keep up with current demand. In the past ten
years, the Country has managed to add less than 3,000
MW of power per year. This of course does not factor
in the estimated existing shortfall, which the current
Power Minister has declared to be over 100,000 MW.
In the State of Uttar Pradesh (or U.P.), according
to the World Bank Project Appraised Report (dated
March 24, 2000), the shortfall is estimated to be
approximately 8,000 MW (14,000 estimated demand minus
6,000 MW installed capacity) that number of course
is not accurate because even though U.P.’s installed
capacity is reportedly approximately 5,000 MW the
actual Mega-Wattage available at any given time is
only 2,500. Therefore the real shortfall today is
probably around 11,000 MW. Every consumer that can
afford it has a small to mid-sized diesel generator
on site which, is generating electricity at an extremely
expensive rate and is highly polluting.
According to the same report, within the next 10
years (by the year 2011), U.P. will need an additional
14,500 MW of generating capacity. Add that to the
current shortfall and the State will be short over
24,000 MW in the next 10 years.
U.P. is in a Power Crisis today and that crisis
is deepening. This crisis is not accurately measured
because half of the State is not even connected. So
there is no way of knowing what the real damage or
shortfall really is.
In a Country where the Power Minister is saying
that the Country needs an additional 100,000 MW immediately
to resolve the power crisis, the World Bank had given
the U.P. Government advice not to allow any new Independent
Power Producer’s to proceed with new projects
for at least another 5 to 6 years until, by their
estimation, the State will be able to offer additional
generation because of its improved financial condition.
The fact of the matter is that U.P. will never get
out of its crisis if that advice is followed.
|That is a huge
problem. I can only suggest observing China's
announcement of 40 new nuclear reactors in the
immediate future, plus pressure on World Bank
et. all to finance accelerated research into some
of the promising new solar technologies. Dr. Anil
Rajvanshi of NARI is trying to convince people
at MIT to develop thermo-electric generation,
which makes sense.
The shortfall is so large that all solutions
will be required. Don't let religious environmentalists
force you into irrational approaches. Best of
In fact, its a huge problem but there have
been many significant changes in power sector
across India. As already stated, power sector
has already been deregularized because of the
amount of corruption which led to losses as
high as 51%. Think of an organization as large
as power sector in a sub continent going for
a paradigm shift and you will know how huge
the task becomes for the private players. As
far as generation is concerned, NAL (National
Aeronautices Lab) is doing a lot of research
on nuclear power generation and India is considering
renewable sources of energy like wind power
because India as of today stands fifth among
the world for generating wind power. Moreover,
generation companies are now shifting to better
technologies to generate more power for less
(read use of super critical boilers). Transfer
of technologies are taking place so as to ensure
reliability and with open access just a year
away, a fervent customer satisfaction program
is on in many states and its just a matter of
time when India would be one of the global players
in Power Industry.