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Power boards rapped for snail-paced reforms

Calcutta, Aug. 16: The power ministry is unhappy with the funds disbursals under the accelerated power development reforms programme (APDRP). Out of the Rs 3,500-crore corpus, the ministry has disbursed only Rs 1,600 crore.

The ministry has written to all state electricity boards asking them to speed up reforms in the distribution and transmission sectors. The major chunk of the funds under APDRP has gone to Gujarat, Maharashtra and Haryana.

The APDRP fund was set up by the government in 2002-03 to offer SEBs concessional grants and loans schemes to tone up sub-transmission, distribution and metering.

A power ministry official said Union power secretary R. V. Shahi has asked all state electricity boards to speed up distribution reforms if they want to avail of funds under APDRP.

Shahi’s message follows a study carried out by Prayas, a Pune-based energy research group. The report has pointed out that even private utilities are not free from large commercial losses.

The focus of power sector reforms is now gradually shifting to distribution rather than generation.

The power ministry official said, “There is widespread acceptance that the initial concentration on generation — adding capacity at any cost — was a misplaced priority. Even those investors who were attracted by the opening up of generation concede that it was a case of putting the horse before the cart.”

He added, “Reforms began on a wrong footing. The best thing would have been to promote transmission and distribution in the private sector. We are still paying the price for that because the growth rate of generation has gone down in the last 10 years.”

Twelve years after the reforms were initiated, the power sector is in a worse shape. The losses of SEBs are at an all-time high of Rs 33, 177 crore or 2 per cent of the gross domestic product. Therefore, the ministry’s toning-up measures have focused on cleaning up this end.

With an installed capacity of 104,917 MW, the country suffers an energy shortage of 7.5 per cent and peak demand shortfall of nearly 13 per cent. India has an embarrassing record of electricity usage.

The country’s per capita consumption of electricity is one of the lowest in the world — 355kWh against 800 kWh in China and a world average of 2,200 kWh.

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