NEW DELHI: Consumers will get uninterrupted power supply from April 1 and building blocks for this are all in place, according to power minister RK Singh.

India.No more blackouts from April 1, vows power minister

You shut off electricity, you are putting lives at risk because ICUs, lifts, transportation services and continuous manufacturing process industries are running on it, the minister said
PM Narendra Modi’s promise of 24X7 quality power was one of the big draws for the electorate in 2014 polls

TNN | Jan 1, 2019, 11.06 PM ISTNEW DELHI: India will get uninterrupted power supply from April 1 and the building blocks for this are all in place, according to power minister R K Singh.

From this ‘Zero date’, state distribution companies (discoms) cannot resort to wilful blackouts to avoid buying power. If they do, they will invite stiff penalty from state regulators, who will also tally area demand with the PPAs (power purchase agreements) to see whether the utilities have lined up adequate supplies. Only blackouts due to technical issues or natural calamities will be exempted from penalties.

“Electricity is as important as breathing. Everything now runs on power. You shut off electricity, you are putting lives at risk because ICUs, lifts, transportation services, and continuous manufacturing process industries are running on it. People are doing away with generators. That’s what we want. Electricity is an essential commodity. You (discoms) can’t say, like, the electricity cost has shot up so we will not buy power but resort to load-shedding. I say improve efficiency and assure 24X7 supply,” Singh told TOI in an interview.

PM Narendra Modi’s promise of 24X7 quality power was one of the big draws for the electorate in 2014 polls. But nearly five years later, the power ministry’s dashboard itself shows consumers still facing blackouts, though the average duration has come down drastically.

“All that will be a thing of the past from April 1,” Singh said with confidence. “This is not something that we have done on our own. This is something which we (the Centre and the states) have discussed and signed up for (Power for All Document). March 31, 2019, is the deadline i.e. from April 1, 2019, there will have to be 24X7 supply, except for one or two sectors such as agriculture where they do not need 24X7 supply; they need supply when there is a requirement.”

Singh is banking on the Revised Tariff Policy containing the stringent provisions against wilful blackouts. But will that be enough to make discoms buy power since UDAY, the scheme to restore their financial health by improving key parameters such as losses due to theft and improving billing and recovery, hasn’t yielded the desired results.

Singh aims to address these issues through a policy sequel, named UDAY-II, and infusing technology such as smart pre-paid metering regime and helping states to change naked overhead wires into aerially bunched insulated wires to stop ‘hooking’ – a popular method of stealing power.

On concerns over discoms’ ability to bill and recover charges from poor households that have been given connections under Saubhagya scheme, Singh said the smart meters will not only do away with a human interface for this activity but will also give a flexible payment option to poor and plug revenue leakage.

“Pre-paid metering is pro-poor. Right now you are asking the poor person to pay the bill for 30 days at one go. I am saying that a pre-paid meter enables him to pay in 5 installments, 6 installments, 10 installments, 20 installments. He can pay for two days at a time. If he has Rs 50 he can recharge the amount and enjoy power. Again, if he will not have money he will sort of manage but when he has money he can recharge again. This allows him to pay as per his financial condition. It is also pro-discom because the discom gets the payment in advance,” Singh said.

“Now the spread is so huge that discoms don’t have enough manpower to take meter readings. So in rural areas, you will find that the meter reading is done once in 3,4 or 6 months. It is not being done and the bill reaches the consumer after three or six or whatever months. So if you give a bill to a consumer for three months at a time, most consumers will find it very difficult to pay. Because of Saubhagya, we are adding a huge number of consumers. This outsourcing led to difficulty for the consumers. They received inflated bills because meter readers simply did not go. So I said switch over to smart pre-paid meters and gave a time frame of three years to all states.

On UDAY, he said: “Overall, losses have come down at the national level (21.8%). But it is still a work in progress. Losses of some states have not come down at the desired trajectory; losses of some states have, in fact, increased. This is something we are addressing at multiple points.

One, of course, is that we are saying in the revised tariff policy that any loss beyond 15% cannot be passed on to the consumers and discom and the state government will have to be bear the burden that is one incentive for reducing losses,” he said. Singh is banking on the Revised Tariff Policy containing the stringent provisions against wilful blackouts. But will that be enough to make discoms buy power since UDAY, the scheme to restore their financial health by improving key parameters such as losses due to theft and improving billing and recovery, hasn’t yielded the desired results. Singh aims to address these issues through a policy sequel, named UDAY-II, and infusing technology such as smart pre-paid metering regime and helping states to change naked overhead wires into aerially bunched insulated wires to stop ‘hooking’ – a popular method of stealing power. On concerns over discoms’ ability to bill and recover charges from poor households that have been given connections under Saubhagya scheme, Singh said the smart meters will not only do away with a human interface for this activity but will also give a flexible payment option to poor and plug revenue leakage. “Pre-paid metering is pro-poor. Right now you are asking the poor person to pay the bill for 30 days at one go. I am saying that a pre-paid meter enables him to pay in 5 installments, 6 installments, 10 installments, 20 installments. He can pay for two days at a time. If he has Rs 50 he can recharge the amount and enjoy power. Again, if he will not have money he will sort of manage but when he has money he can recharge again. This allows him to pay as per his financial condition. It is also pro-discom because the discom gets the payment in advance,” Singh said. “Now the spread is so huge that discoms don’t have enough manpower to take meter readings. So in rural areas, you will find that the meter reading is done once in 3,4 or 6 months. It is not being done and the bill reaches the consumer after three or six or whatever months. So if you give a bill to a consumer for three months at a time, most consumers will find it very difficult to pay. Because of Saubhagya, we are adding a huge number of consumers. This outsourcing led to difficulty for the consumers. They received inflated bills because meter readers simply did not go. So I said switch over to smart pre-paid meters and gave a time frame of three years to all states. On UDAY, he said: “Overall, losses have come down at the national level (21.8%). But it is still a work in progress. Losses of some states have not come down at the desired trajectory; losses of some states have, in fact, increased. This is something we 1/2/2019 No blackouts from April 1, says power minister -[Times of India]

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