Goa too needs a Bijli Swaraj: What Goa can learn from the Delhi model of Bijli Swaraj (The Goan, 7th February 2020) #DelhiGovernance #AAPatWork @SatyendarJain

Delhi’s strides in the power sector are nothing short of a revolution. With Goa power department proposing tariff hikes, can’t we learn something from the Delhi model? 

The state electricity department’s proposal seeking permission from the Joint Electricity Regulatory Commission (JERC) to hike power tariff by 3.84 percent for various categories of consumers including domestic, industrial and commercial faced sharp criticism during a public hearing held in Goa on February 5.

The grievances were directed at the fact that the department had failed to provide affordable, clean and continuous power supply and should look for different ways of revenue generation to fill the revenue gap of Rs 372.41 crore (2020-21) instead of piercing a hole in the pockets of the common man.

In sharp contrast, over the past five years, the strides made by Delhi in the power sector have been nothing short of a revolution.

This Bijli Swaraj – people’s power over electric power – of Delhi has ensured that national capital has had zero-tariff hikes in the last 5 years but there is also access to 24×7 cheap and clean electricity with the first 200 units free every month (with those consuming electricity between 201 units and 400 units eligible to avail 50 percent subsidy from the government on their bills). This is a common demand across states and this also makes Delhi an outlier – being rather different from the rest of the country. There are many lessons to be learned and practices to be emulated from the Delhi experience so as to replicate the Delhi model in other states. Goa, particularly, is primed for this.

First and foremost, Delhi and Goa are beset by the same core problem – both the states are net consumers and not producers of energy – that is the energy being purchased from other states far exceeds the energy being sold to them. As per the Statistical Handbook of Goa, 2016-17, the state has purchased around 26,235 MKWH of energy in the span of the preceding seven years. During the same course of time, the state has sold only 21,019 MKWH of energy – thus accounting for a deficit of around 5,216 MKWH of energy. This translates into a whopping 750 MKWH (approximately) of energy deficit per year in each of the last seven years.

In October of last year, it came to light that the state power department was reeling under financial crisis due to the non-payment of dues by consumers. After going through the balance sheets of all the sub-divisions, it was understood that total Rs 350 crore was outstanding from the power consumers, including the government agencies, individuals and private firms. Of this, Rs 120 crore to Rs 145 crore was due from various government departments alone. Such a crisis can be averted with the efficiency that is linked to monitoring and accountability and engineering and economics. Here as well, the state power department of Goa could take a cue from the Aam Aadmi Party government – one that has worked with the private sector in Delhi opposed it in court on its financial bungling of the past, and yet showed utmost professionalism whilst deploying new policies around solar energy, electric vehicles, and battery charging stations as well as supply code changes that assist consumers and penalize discoms. Another recourse that Goa has and something which AAP has used rather sagaciously is to exercise the Electricity Act, 2003 and the Right to Information Act, 2005 well.

Upgradation of old and creation of new infrastructure is another important aspect, and again an area where Goa can look up to Delhi and emulate. Improvement and installation of Distribution Transformers (DT) and High Tension/ Low Tension (HT/LT) cables is one big step towards the same. In Shakur Basti alone (one of the 70 constituencies in Delhi), for instance, 68 Distribution Transformers were installed and around 26 km of HT & LT cables were installed in the preceding five years. Infrastructure forms the backbone of the electricity sector and unless a government is willing to spend on its upgrade, no meaningful change can be brought about.

Despite its favorable weather conditions and the obvious demand round the year, Goa isn’t particularly popular for harnessing solar energy to fulfill its power requirements. As of FY 2016/2017, the overall installed solar capacity in the state was a meager 0.05 MW.  Delhi Mukhyamantri Solar Power Yojana is aiming to deploy rooftop solar to get net electricity at Rs 1 per unit and 146 MW solar capacity has already been achieved in over 2900 installations across Delhi. Goa, with ten times less population and two-and-a-half times the area, is far better placed to make the solar power on ground level feasible.

Being the smallest state in the country can benefit Goa with respect to plying EV buses across the length and breadth of its geographical boundaries. These EV buses usually on average have a range of around 250 km with a single charge – thus making them unfit for long-distance travel as an expensive charging infrastructure would be needed to be built along the routes. This is where the 3702 sq km pocket-sized Goa can steal a march, as there is a much lower variable cost per kilometer when it comes to EV vehicles. The state can thus invest in EV buses plying inter-city and intra-state routes without fearing much about the expensive charging infrastructure.

The time is ripe for the state of Goa to implement some radical changes in the power sector so as to bring about a significant reform like it has been done in Delhi. With the state electricity department of Goa having just announced a proposed tariff hike of 3.84%, and the Delhi government extended the free electricity scheme to the city’s tenants as well, the ball is all but in Goa’s court to get strong-willed and determined and take charge of its own Bijli Swaraj. The first step in that direction can be to stop listening to entrenched political interests and discussing the Delhi model amongst common citizens.

The author has been a volunteer with Aam Aadmi Party and advisor in the Delhi Government since 2014. He holds two graduate degrees in public policy and engineering from Stanford University and was formerly an RA with MIT JPAL.

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