Electricity is backbone for almost all economic activities in present times and it is a proven fact that access of this precious perishable commodity to people bears direct impact on pace of development of the society.
Almost four years have been passed since reform and restructuring process initiated in the unhealthy power sector of the country. The prevailing scenario in the power sector can be best described with, unbearable and ever increasing financial burden on State Electricity Boards (SEBs), half of the power generated goes as `Losses’, mere one third of the power generated get billed, and inadequate and poor quality of supplies.
More and more of the states are gradually opting for the `Reform’ process which includes unbundling the existing structure into Generation, Transmission and Distribution companies separately and to privatise them at subsequent stages. Also, the proposed Energy Bill-2001 is expected to initiate the process of free trade of electricity and induction of competition at distribution level.
Although it is too early to talk about the outcome of reform process, the experience of last four years strongly suggests that it can not be afforded to ignore the consumers, the end user of the service, while deciding upon fate of the sector.
In Rajasthan, Government initiated the process with strong commitment in year 2000, erstwhile Rajasthan State Electricity Board has been bifurcated into separate Generation, Transmission, and three Distribution companies.
Rajasthan Electricity Regulatory Commission (R.E.R.C.) has been established in 1999 to regulate (or de-regulate) the sector, has directed the Distribution companies to bring down their existing Transmission & Distribution (T& D) losses to 20% level in coming five years and reduce it by 5.4% in the current financial year. Since it requires interface with the end users, companies finding it difficult as there is no formal mechanism to involve the consumers in the process.
During the hearings at RERC on tariff setting petitions, there was hardly any active participation, apart from CUTS, to argue the consumers interests and sole reason was lack of awareness.
The current statistics of the power scenario in the Rajasthan is as given.
- The installed generation capacity in the state is 3356 MW. Of which 1302 MW is exclusively owned by the state. And a share of 949 MW in inter-state partnership projects, with its share from the central grid being 1105 MW.
- The transmission & distribution system covers a large geographical area of 342,000 Sq. Kms, 2/3rd of which is desert with low population density, serving over 50 lac consumers from different categories.
- Demand for electricity has been growing at an annual average of 11%.The unserved demand is significant, as evidenced by a backlog of over 6 lac applications for service connections.
- The projected demand in coming years has been estimated to be in the range of 5000 MW and the deficit in terms of percent is estimated to be 4.5%. The per capita consumption of electricity is 301 kWh as per 1996/97 figures.
- Plant load factor is at level of 78.9%.
- The T&D loss for all the three distribution companies is estimated to be in the region of 47%.
- Village electrification in the state is achieved to the tune of 94.85% – this is in terms of revenue villages. However, taking Dhaanis and actual households having electric power connection, the percentage is fairly low at 57%.
- Furthermore, there is conflicting opinions of various political parties about the `Reform’ process.