24×7 electricity is achievable but the govt needs to address this first, say industry insiders

New Delhi: As the government chases the target it had set for itself for providing 24×7 electricity for all by 2022, experts in the power sector have claimed that the target looks achievable but it cannot be realised if discoms are not brought out of the current financial mess.

Addressing a gathering of delegates drawn from the power sector, IS Jha, a member of the Central Electricity Regulatory Commission (CERC), said, "Transmission needs to be robust and flexible enough to meet changing demands for 24×7 electricity. The electricity grid also needs to be ahead of the generation."

Can the current transmission infrastructure be relied on?

Speaking on the sidelines of GridTech 2019, an international conference and exhibition that focusses on the power sector, two sources from PowerGrid said that the existing infrastructure is totally capable of carrying 24×7 electricity. "The existing infrastructure is robust. It will not only be able to carry the electricity that is being produced at thermal power plants.

But it will also suffice for carrying the power generated from renewable sources of energy, like solar and small hydel power plants," they added. Besides, the public sector undertaking is also putting in place a green energy corridor, meant especially for carrying power generated from renewable sources because they tend to fluctuate more than its counterpart. This grid network will stabilise the fluctuation and make the electricity fir for being carried via the existing infrastructure.

What about power generation?

A source from the Central Electricity Authority (CEA) said that there's no shortfall in power generation. "Power plants are generating power in surplus. And some of them are not even operating at the optimum possible level. So, the notion that power is not enough to provide 24×7 supply to people is a myth," the person added.

When it comes to distribution, not all is well

The problem, according to industry insiders, lies with discoms which have been in a state of financial mess for over a decade now. "Distribution process and the network needs to be strengthened if the government wants to achieve this target at all. This is a sore spot that the government needs to look into any which way, even if it means subsidising electricity even further," the source said. Discoms purchase electricity from power generating companies and then distribute it to consumers. Data from a government portal on payments showed that from Rs 14,864 crore at the end of FY18, the total outstanding amount receivable from discoms jumped 75 percent to Rs 26,267 crore by December 31, 2018. The aggregate technical and commercial losses (AT&C), which reflects transmission and collection efficiency, was 19.72 percent of electricity purchases, latest government data for 26 states showed.