Taking India’s 100% electrification success to emerging economies

Having successfully connected 597,464 census villages to the power grid, India is ready to extend the benefit of its indigenous expertise in the field of electrification to other developing countries where economic growth has been limited due to weak electricity coverage

May 31, 2018

Earlier this year, India became the third largest electricity producer in the world with annual output of 1,423 TWh. The source of generation is distributed between thermal,hydro, nuclear and renewable energy sources

India has expertise in setting up power infrastructure in diverse terrains and climatic zones at low costs and within deadlines; This efficiency has attracted interest from West Asian, Southeast Asian and Sub-Saharan African countries

Power Grid Corp of India, a state-run power transmission company, is already active in 20 countries, including Kenya, Nepal, Bangladesh, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Afghanistan; India has also been setting hydro-power projects across Africa

According to a World Bank report on electrification, India has provided power connections to 30 million people each year between 2010 and 2016 - the highest rate in the world; India is uniquely placed to help developing nations with electrification

Having successfully connected 597,464 census villages to the power grid in April 2018, India is ready to extend the benefit of its indigenous expertise in power connectivity with other developing countries where economic growth has been limited owing to weak electricity coverage. Government of India’s electrification drive is a crucial component of its broader initiative to steer socio-economic development of the nation. Citizens with power connectivity are better placed to improve their income, standard of living, and have improved access to literacy and healthcare services. Power connectivity also aids efficient dissemination of governmental and other state services. Driven by government’s backing as well as private investments, India’s power generation capacity has grown rapidly. The nation currently has an installed power generation capacity of 344 GW, out of which 45.2 per cent is in  the private sector. The Central Government and the State Governments control 30.2 per cent and 24.6 per cent, respectively.

Diversity of power sector draws foreign interest

Earlier this year, India became the third largest electricity producer in the world with annual output of 1,423 TWh. The source of generation is distributed between thermal, hydro, nuclear and renewable energy sources in the proportion of 64.8 per cent, 13.2 per cent, 2 per cent and 20.1 per cent, respectively. On the back of this, India’s conventional power generation during the financial year 2017-18 rose by 4 per cent 1205.9 billion units. The nation is also aiming to set up renewable (solar, wind, biomass, small hydro) capacity of 175 GW by 2022 and is reportedly ahead of schedule. India’s efficiency and successes at electrification has attracted the attention of countries from West Asia, Southeast Asia and Sub-Saharan Africa. Jordan and Syria have shown interest in working with India’s state-run Rural Electrification Corp Ltd (REC) to expand electrification in their nation. REC has been a critical force in India’s 100 per cent electrification success. Earlier this month, PV Ramesh, chairman and managing director of REC, told Mint, a financial daily, that the agency was prepared to provide its expertise in terms of both technology and services along with financing support in order to develop power infrastructure in other emerging economies.

Power Grid Corp of India Ltd (PGCIL), a state-run power transmission company, is already active in 20 countries, including Kenya, Nepal, Bangladesh, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Afghanistan

Apart from investments from both Government and private sources, the nation has gained expertise in setting up power infrastructure (electricity generation, transmission, distribution infrastructure) in diverse terrains and climatic zones ranging from vast deserts to high mountains and long coastlines to vast plains. Additionally, India has set up power infrastructure from scratch or upgraded the existing setup at record-low costs and before deadlines. These factors have made India an ideal partner for foreign nations from varied geographies and with diverse developmental challenges. REC can help in setting up power infrastructure with financing,  technology transfer, detailed project report (DPR) preparation and project execution. Meanwhile, Power Grid Corp of India Ltd (PGCIL), a state-run power transmission company, is already active in 20 countries, including Kenya, Nepal, Bangladesh, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Afghanistan. PGCIL is currently implementing a 220-KV transmission link in Afghanistan, between Kabul and Pul-e-Khumri, a link which will bring power from Uzbekistan to Afghanistan. The nation is also involved in the development of hydroelectric projects in several African nations.

Deep rooted tradition of power generation

India’s electrification was launched by the British in 1879 when PW Fluery & Co first used light bulbs to demonstrate electricity on the streets of Calcutta. Following this the Electricity Act of India was framed in 1910, which allowed private companies in the sector. The first Government installation was in Aruvankadu, Nilgiris. At first, only major Indian cities, office centres and ports were connected to the power grid. In 1947, at the time of Independence, only 1,500 of India’s villages were electrified. Since then, India’s road to 100 per cent electrification has been dotted with vectories and learnings. Starting with the Darjeeling Power Station, and followed by Calcutta Electricity Supply Co, Shivasamudram Power Station, Mettur Power Station, Tata Power, Power stations in Jammu and Kashmir and Pykara Power station that were built before Independence, India has developed its power generating strength till the Electricity Supply Act was passed in 1948. The act marked the beginning of autonomous State Electricity Boards (SEBs). Meanwhile, the Central Electrical Authority (CEA) was set up to manage the operation of different SEBs at the Central level, thus improving upon both capacity and efficiency.

Between 1951 and 2017, various five-year plans have put forward optimal strategies for the economic development of India, and power generation has been a key aspect of each plan. The Electricity Supply Act was amended to provide for widespread electrification, and National Thermal Power Corp (NTPC), National Hydroelectric Power Corp (NHPC), and Nuclear Power Corporation of India (NPCIL) were established. These utilities are responsible for power production between various SEBs and Regional Electricity Boards. These utilities, when combined, represent the largest transmission network in the world. They connect the length and breadth of India into a single grid. According to a recent World bank report on electrification, India has provided power connection to 30 million people each year between 2010 and 2016, clocking the highest rate in the world. The report added, “In absolute terms, India is doing more on electrification than the other countries.” This capacity offers great opportunity for India to bolster its diplomatic ties, while also helping human development across the world.

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