It is welcome that Union power minister Piyush Goyal has offered the Centre’s good offices to sort out the problem of stressed stranded projects in the vexed power sector. As many as 54 projects adding up to over 25,000 MW are currently stranded and not generating power. But the problem, in the main, is the sorry lack of reforms in distribution and attendant, routine and large-scale theft of power.
It is rampant revenue loss in distribution and moribund finances of state power utilities that stultifies offtake and demand. In a shocking illustration of the problem, engineer Abhimanyu Singh was killed and four of his colleagues injured while fleeing a mob attack in southwest Delhi on Monday, where they had gone for spot inspection of power theft. The powers that be must immediately resume CISF protection for theft detection teams, which was questionably withdrawn in 2009. The fact is that despite showcase power reforms in Delhi, large pockets continue to experience massive theft and recurring non-payment with 25-50% of power unaccounted for.
The point is to clamp down on political patronage of theft and non-payment for power in the states. It is true that of late, 25 states have issued bonds under the Ujwal Discom Assurance Yojana for over Rs 2 lakh crore, to clear state power utility losses. But in tandem, we need revamped institutional mechanism and improved governance to stem revenue losses in distribution. The way forward is to mandate stringent norms to boost transparency. For starters, distribution results need to duly be complied and published widely on a quarterly basis. Utilities can provide steady returns for the long term, and the Narendra Modi government needs to put distribution reforms at the core of its reform agenda.
From The Economic Times