Agricultural Power supply oils the wheels of Power Theft in India.

Agriculture Power supply oils the wheels of Power Theft in India.

Haryana has extended unmetered agricultural power supply to farmers.
A subsidized power supply is also provided for agriculture.
Power theft is accounted in unmetered electricity by Discoms

The green revolution introduced in India helped to slip the country from the edge of famine. To ensure food security, a free supply of electricity or subsidized electricity was permitted to agricultural consumers almost five decades back. This was a part of the Green Revolution in India and was successful to a great extent. A number of lift irrigations and tube wells were installed progressively, energizing either by unmetered electricity or subsidized electricity, which has resulted in acute Power theft in this sector. The actual consumption of agricultural power is not accounted for properly in any state in India except a few like Kerala and Andhra Pradesh. Power Theft is a by-product of the Green Revolution undertaken in India way back in the 1960s. Against this backdrop, the solar policy announced by the state of Haryana is revisited to evaluate how appropriate the policy is in controlling losses in this sector.

The latest policy of introduction of solar panels to agricultural tube wells in Haryana has multi-faceted advantages. As this process results in a distributed generation and the power is generated and consumed at the same place, there would be a minimum loss. Solar power is reliable and hence farmers would be beneficial in operating their pumps at any time of requirement of water supply.50% of the workforce in India are engaged in agriculture-related jobs. India uses about 4 million litres of diesel and consumes about 85 million tonnes of coal per annum for agricultural pumping. This would be reduced once green power is provided. The loss reported by the Indian utilities is vague due to absorbing unaccounted electricity as agricultural consumption and this may get further political advantage also. The regulators in India have to depend on these data only and hence no magic can be expected from them also. The Indian utilities, due to erratic accounting of agricultural electricity have redefined Aggregate Technical and Commercial loss(AT&C) to Absorbing theft and Centralizing loss. Against this backdrop, the new solar policy of the state of Haryana is reviewed. The Government of Haryana has released the policy for renewable energy during the beginning of this financial year. Taking a cue from Jawaharlal Nehru National Solar Mission (JNNSM), it identifies solar energy as the most important source of energy for the future. The state is committed to reducing AT&C loss and identified solar energy as one among many ways to reduce losses.

Haryana is an agrarian state having about 5 million hectares of land used for agriculture, which is about 89% of the total geographical area. Since the state is not blessed with an abundant source of water for developing hydropower stations nor any resources to generate thermal power stations or adequate speedy wind for developing wind farms, a large area remains as barren land and water supply can ignite a second Green Revolution in that area. The Government is in the process of providing water supply through Green Energy, particularly solar energy.

The solar policy envisages ground-mounted mega solar projects for generation, development of solar Park with the assistance of The Ministry of New and Renewable Energy  (MNRE) and Solar Energy Corporation of India Ltd (SECI), incentivize canal top solar project, leasing of the land owned by local self-Government for a minimum period of thirty years to develop solar project etc. Policy changes and ease of doing business such as single-window clearance for projects etc are included in the tariff policy.

The Department of Haryana Power and New and Renewable energy has a proposal to provide 22000 solar tube wells in 2021-22. It is claimed that 68% of the target has already been completed. In the absence of a systematic approach, the reported agricultural consumption in Haryana is false and shows an inflated figure with a  major component of power theft.

The introduction of the solar Tube well has the twofold advantage of reducing losses and controlling Power theft.  Since the plants are installed near the load centres, the losses would be minimal. Also as the plant operates during the daytime, the chance of Power theft would be minimized. The loss and Power theft in Haryana is not in a comfortable position and is still around 14%.

Haryana has introduced all possible reforms in the power sector consequent to the introduction of the Electricity Act 2003. The agriculture consumption in Haryana was 9176.5MU which is greater than the domestic or commercial sector with per capita consumption now crossing over 2000 units as compared to a meagre 57 units in 1967.

Presently agricultural tube well supply is metered but provided with free electricity. There are large numbers of unmetered lift irrigation pumps also. Though the state has identified waste to energy and paddy straw-based power plants, the burning of paddy straw remains a key issue due to pollution issues.

The total generation capacity available in the state was 11951.9MW in 2020 of which a major share ie.36% comes from Independent Power Producer ( IPP) and through power purchase. The state has more than 6.4 lakhs agricultural connections, resulting in a demand of 7505MW which comes about 25% of the total demand of the state. The energy demand of the agriculture sector is more than that of the domestic sector and the second-largest power-consuming sector after the HT Industry.

Though the Haryana Electricity Regulatory Commission(HERC) has claimed that inefficiency of power utilities ie. Dakshin Haryana Bijli Vitran Nigam Limited. (DHVBNL),Uttar Haryana Bijli Vitran Nigam Limited. (UHBVNL)would not be tolerated and will not be allowed as a burden to its consumers, the loss remains at 14%. A significant portion of electricity in the state is feeding to the agriculture sector, with either free supply of electricity or unmetered electricity supply. Theft of electricity is absorbed in unmetered agricultural consumption and would help power utilities to tally their accounts resulting in a good statement of accounts to present before the Government of India.

Occasional reports from the state of Haryana appear in media regarding the detection of Power theft. While any effort to unearth Power theft needs appreciation, if media reports and statistics are to be believed, the action of power utilities in Haryana are pennywise and pound foolish.

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