Rural electrification is often considered to be the backbone of the rural economy. Rural energy needs include energy for a) Cooking b) Basic lighting c) Irrigation d) Communication e) Water heating f) Cottage industry and so on. Rural electrification can meet most of these and the impact can be seen on improved farm productivity, improved health and education, improved communication and economic development through creation of employment in rural areas which traditionally depend on agriculture related income generation activities. Let’s take a fresh look at rural electrification initiatives in India since Independence and recent developments, including aspects of integrating renewables in a major way in the rural electrification process.
Development of rural electrification
In today’s context, rural electrification has five major facets
1. Setting up of rural electricity infrastructure
2. Providing connectivity to households
3. Adequate supply of desired quality of power
4. Supply of electricity at affordable rates
5. Providing clean, environmentally benign and sustainable power in efficient way
India has always had a rural economy and since independence successive governments have tried to improve the rural infrastructure including energy infrastructure. However, a lot is yet to be achieved to give a real impetus to rural economy
In spite of launching of ambitious schemes to achieve 100% rural electrification, India has achieved only 67.3% overall electrification (urban and rural together). More than 75 million households (45% of the total rural households) are yet to be electrified (Census of India, 2011). As per latest data, about 19,909 villages are yet to be electrified (Progress report of village electrification as on 31-01-2015 as per 2011). However, not all electrified villages are getting quality power and it is estimated that nearly 33% of the population may be facing under-electrification, accessing less than 50kWh of electricity per month/household.
Government initiatives in rural electrification
While the need for rural electrification was recognised in 1950s, the first major initiative was the establishment of Rural Electric Corporation in 1969. Its main objective is to finance and promote rural electrification all over the country. Apart from providing loan assistance to SEBs/ state power utilities, equipment manufacturers and so on it is also managing the rural electrification programmes of the Ministry of Power (MoP).
Some other notable initiatives launched by
the GoI (Government of India) include (Chandra
1. Rural electrification under Minimum Needs Programme launched in 1974
2. Kutir Jyoti Yojana to provide single point light to below poverty level (BPL) families in rural India launched in 1988.
3. Pradhan Mantri Gramodaya Yojana to electrify un-electrified villages as per prevailing defi nition of electrification launched in 2003
4. Remote Village Electrification Programme launched in 2001 by Ministry of New and Renewable Energy (MNRE). This programme focused on electrifying remote villages not connected to grid through use of renewable energy sources
5. Accelerated Rural Electrification Programme in 2003
6. Accelerated electrification of one lakh villages and one crore households launched in 2004
7. Rajiv Gandhi Grameen Vidyutikaran Yojana (RGGVY):Launched in 2005, this programme aimed at providing energy access to all by 2009 and at least one unit of electricity per household per day by 2012 as envisaged in NEP (National Electricity policy) 2005. All earlier programmes were merged in RGGVY
8. In 2009, MoP launched Decentralised Distributed Generation Scheme under RGGVY to electrify un-electrifi ed villages through mini grids. This also included villages which receive less than six hours of electricity per day
9. In December 2014, current government announced Deendayal Upadhyay Gram Jyoti Yojana (DDUGJY) with major modifications in RGGVY. It aims at
a. Separation of agriculture and non-agriculture feeders
b. Strengthening and augmentation of sub-transmission and distribution infrastructure in rural areas including metering of distribution transformers / feeders/consumers
c. Rural electrification as per CCEA approval dated 1 August 2013 for completion of the targets laid down under RGGVY for 12th and 13th Plan
The Electricity Act 2003 (EA 2003), National Electricity Policy 2005 (Power, National electricity policy), National Tariff Policy 2006 and Rural Electrification Policy2006 are some of the major policy and regulatory initiatives supporting rural electrification programmes.