India becomes net exporter of power for the first time. What’s the reality?
Of late, India has been tagged as the ‘net exporter’ of electricity for the first time. As per Central Electricity Authority (CEA), the designated authority of government of India for cross border trade of electricity, during April to February this year, India has exported around 5,798 million units to Nepal, Bangladesh and Myanmar which is 213 million units more than the import of around 5,585 million units from Bhutan, India’s Power Ministry said in a statement. Export to Nepal and Bangladesh increased 2.5 and 2.8 times respectively in the last three years.
For years, a major population of rural India was deprived of electricity. The government’s ambitious Deen Dayal Upadhyay Gram Jyoti Yojna has taken several steps to bring rural India out of darkness. According to a power ministry report, there were 18,452 un-electrified villages when the current government assumed power. Out of this 13,469 villages have been electrified as of as of 18th May.
Cross border trade of electricity was started in mid-80s and India has been importing power from Bhutan and exporting to Nepal from Bihar as well as Uttar Pradesh.
More cross border links are in pipeline and that will further increase the export of electricity. “Export will be further enhanced after commissioning of one more cross border interconnection between Surjyamaninagar (Tripura) in India and South Comilla in Bangladesh. Currently approximately 600 MW power is being exported to Bangladesh,” informs Dr Sanjiv Kawishwar, Sr. Vice President, ReGen Powertech.
India’s sustained efforts of taking electricity to its neighbouring countries are laudable. The country has been able to achieve this feat due to heavy investment on generation infrastructure over the past few years. Also, a massive surge in the domestic supply of raw materials like coal in the past two years has also helped power companies boost output. However, ‘net exporter’ doesn’t mean India has surplus power to export after meeting its domestic requirement – it means the country’s export volume of electricity is larger than the imported ones. As per the information available in Deen Dayal Upadhyaya Gram Jyoti Yojana website, out of 597,464 census villages, 593,479 villages as of 25th May. Again, there are many households yet to get electricity connection within the ‘electrified’ villages as a village is deemed electrified if at least 10 per cent of total households are electrified.
Rajesh Nandwani, VP and Business Unit Head–Switchgear, Anchor Electricals Pvt Ltd points out, “The reality remains that even today, 35 per cent of rural India has no access to the grid electricity. While the renewable energy is expected to bring a difference here, the fact remains that the nation still faces a power-deficit and we have to aim to bridge this gap first and make the country self-reliant, prior to exporting power.”