Honorable Minister: But then for some political reasons at the last minute decided not to agree for UDAY. The Power for All, which was another major initiative of this government to ensure that by 2022, every home in this country gets connected with the power supply and gets 24/7 power, so when India turns 75, we didn’t want any child in the country, any young boy or girl to be deprived of this basic amenity of power. The entire country, every State, every Union Territory signed up on Power for All – 24/7, except Uttar Pradesh, one State in the whole country which had refused to agree for this.
But I am delighted to inform all of you that the honorable Chief Minister, Yogi Adityanath, a person who is very passionate about serving the people. I know that because for the last 3 years he’s been continuously engaging with me, talking to me, discussing with me how we can strengthen the power infrastructure in his area of Gorakhpur where he is a five-time elected Member of Parliament. And he has informed me that Uttar Pradesh would now like to be a part of this Power for All – 24/7 mission and take power to the nook and corner and every home in Uttar Pradesh.
Q: You raised the issue of DISCOMs. Most of the DISCOMs run in losses because of thefts and T&D losses are also very high. So, theft in some of the areas last year you pointed out that industrial houses and some of the big players also have a role to play. One, how are you curbing that? And, secondly, theft in certain pockets of certain cities where the enforcement agencies are scared to go, how would that be addressed?
A: Well, that’s true. There is a major problem about theft, about power theft. The AT&C losses in several States are extremely high, particularly, in States like Jammu & Kashmir, Uttar Pradesh, Jharkhand and Bihar. In fact, this was a problem that even Gujarat had once upon a time. When Prime Minister Modi was elected as the Chief Minister of Gujarat way back in 2001-02, at that time Gujarat Power Sector DISCOMs were also making huge losses. But then Chief Minister Narendra Modi was extremely firm in his resolve to solve this problem. Within the first year of his government, despite a lot of political pressure not to act, he filed almost 100,000 – 1 lakh FIRs against people who were indulging in theft. And I would like to share with you, more often than not this power theft is a phenomena which is done by the richer people, by industry, by people who are large consumers of power.
गरीब आदमी बेचारा 25 unit, 50 unit इस्तेमाल करता है वह क्या तो चोरी करेगा और क्या रिश्वत देगा लाइन्समैन को, I don’t think गरीब के ऊपर यह ज़िम्मेदारी या उसके ऊपर यह हम आरोप लगा सकते हैं | और शायद छोटा-मोटा कभी गरीब ने चोरी कर ली हो तो वह हालात के मारे कर सकता है, उसको बिजली नहीं मिलती हो या बिजली के बिल में तंग करते हों, लाइन्समैन कनेक्शन देने में रिश्वत मांगते हों | स्वाभाविक है ऐसे केस में कुछ दुर्भाग्य हो सकता है कि उसको कटिया मारना पड़े |
But the larger power theft comes from people who can actually afford it but are tempted to enjoy the fruits of stealing power. Prime Minister Modi within a year had come down strictly on power theft, was able to bring down power theft in Gujarat, and ever since, for the last 10-12 years, Gujarat has seen one of the finest DISCOMs, profit-making, serving the people of Gujarat 24/7 with quality power and affordable prices. I think more and more states are now realising the virtue of acting strictly against power theft. I am told the new young, energetic, Power Minister of Uttar Pradesh, Mr Shrikant Sharma, has also taken it upon himself that he will be cracking down on power theft. Yogi Adityanath ji, honorable CM, is committed to ensuring that the AT&C losses come down. I am very confident that more and more states will now start looking at, because ultimately, when 4 or 5 people steal power, it’s the 95 honest people sitting in this room who have to pay higher tariffs, who have to pay more for that power. So it’s very important that we all join in this effort wherever we see any instances of people who are not paying their bills honestly, I would urge all my young friends here to become whistleblowers, to become a part of this effort to stop power theft.
And just like in Munna Bhai, you had that, what was that, dadagiri or something? Gandhigiri! तो इस तरीके से हमको भी ऊर्जागिरी करनी पड़ेगी हम सबको मिलके |
Q: One of the, आप जब मिनिस्टर बने और आपको कोल् और पॉवर, दोनों का पोर्टफोलियो दिया गया उससे एक major जो advantage जो accrue हुआ वह यह था कि जो linkage थी वह improve हुई to the power plants. And recently, there is a new coal linkage policy – Shakti – which is being brought in. What is it all about?
A: Well, I think the policy is still under formulation. It’s still under finalization, so until the Cabinet approves it, we will wait for the final details. But as most of you are aware, this government has taken particular care that the natural resources or the wealth of this country which belongs to the people of India should not be given away to anybody without a due process, a transparent process and a process where everybody gets a fair chance to participate. We do not believe in discriminating between friend and foe. We do not believe that our MPs, our relatives, our friends have the right to the nation’s resources. We believe a transparent process-driven approach, a process-driven approach which allows everybody to participate honestly and fairly, generates revenue for the state, and that revenue then goes to serve the people of India. So you would have noticed that all the coal mines in so many, last three years, have been given away through a transparent auction process, some have been given to the states where since it’s the states, representing the people of India, we give it to them on allotment basis.
Similarly, the coal linkages, which in the past used to be given by a committee directly, we have done away with that. All coal linkages to the unregulated sector are now auctioned out, so everybody has a fair chance, the cements, steel, captive power units, everybody gets a fair chance to participate in that auction. And, similarly, now the power sector will also be given out coal linkages through a transparent process, which is being designed under Shakti.
Q: Simultaneously, recently there was a report by Sierra Club, Greenpeace and Coal …. on, this was a report about how India, China moving away from coal-based power and how many of the plants may ultimately lie idle. In case of India, it is said that in our case we may nearly have 3.2 lakh crore worth of investment in the coal sector, which may go underutilized probably.
A: Well, I can reassure everybody that coal plants are not shutting down. In fact, India’s dependence on coal will continue for several more years to come. Coal is a domestic raw material; we have it in abundance in India. And, I am sure all my young friends here will agree that India should be a domestic dependent economy, we should not depend on imports to run our power plants. And, therefore, coal, which is available in big measure all across the country, will continue to power our power plants or thermal plants. However, what we are doing is trying to bring in modern technology so that the consumption of coal is more efficient. We are insisting that all new projects should be super-critical projects. We are trying to replace old plants which are more than 25 years old with new and efficient plants so that consumption of coal is less and the pollution out of the power generation is reduced. We are looking at encouraging coal-to-gas, coal bed methane, different new technologies which will help to reduce pollution out of coal consumption. But, having said that, the base load without which no electricity system can survive, the base load in India will continue for many many years to come to be out of coal-based thermal power.
Q: Somehow our coal plants are not able to utilize more than 30% of domestic coal and we are primarily dependent on imported coal. How are we addressing this mismatch?
A: Well, I am glad you asked this question because this is the sad story of India’s mindset of the past vis-à-vis the mindset of today. We had coal shortages in the past. Everybody is aware that coal used to be a premium commodity and people used to struggle and very often even buy coal through the black market. And many people were dependent on import of coal despite having the third largest sources resource in the world in terms of our own domestic reserves. But that was because the government of the day in the past never had the confidence that we can increase our coal production to such an extent that all the coal that we require would be available domestically. After Prime Minister Modi took charge he encouraged all of us and the employees of the coal companies to ramp up production rapidly and I am happy to share with you that today India has surplus coal. We have no coal shortage. Whoever needs coal can get coal from the coal companies, and on the contrary, we have such huge stock of coal that we have had to regulate production of coal current year so that we don’t have the risk of too much coal in the coal mines in the pit yard.
But the past, when there were coal shortages, many power plants were set up based on technology which were not conducive to using domestic coal. Domestic coal has higher degree of fly ash and, therefore, these plants were set up in the period, let’s say, 2005 to 2014, and were planned during that period based on imported coal. Because of which even if these plants we want to give them more domestic coal, they are unable to switch over to domestic coal and country continues to import coal while we have surplus coal in the country. It’s a technological problem because of the mindset of that time, which never imagined that India could become a coal-surplus country.
Q: To address our growing energy needs, obviously, you are looking at foreign investment. And, recently, after Posco indicated that it might pull out of its old Odisha project and which is a big project worth nearly $12 billion. And prior to that, we had seen Arcelor Mittal pulling out. So you had said that there are more and more opportunities in India, and if one company chooses to pull out, the others will come in.
A: Well, I think everybody is aware that in the last 3 years, India has seen record Foreign Direct Investment. FDI inflows are at a record high for the last three years and we have seen a lot of interests in investing in India. In fact, a large market that India provides more than a billion aspiring Indians looking for a better quality of life, looking for homes, looking for clean water, looking for electric supply, looking for quality education, looking for employment opportunities. This is the place which is attracting investment from around the world and large number of international investors are making a beeline to come and invest in India.
It’s unfortunate that some companies chose not to pursue their investments here. And I think this is a legacy this government inherited. Posco, for instance, has been struggling for the last 12-13 years maybe, trying to get their environmental approvals, the land in place and other enabling infrastructure. After this government came in, we did speed up the process but I think by that time they had almost given up. So it’s very unfortunate that some companies are choosing to pull out despite a very investor-friendly government in place at the centre today. I do hope the states also will take this pro-active investor friendly approach forward, and together, we can both retain the old investors and encourage new investors to come to India.
Yet if some company chooses to go out, I think we will have to look at newer companies coming in, newer investors coming in. We can’t cry over spilt milk. We have to be positive. We have to look forward with a positive approach.
Q: You are also the Minister for the Renewable Energy, and solar power happens to be a big priority for you. Now, over here when it comes to solar power your targets are huge, but when we look at electricity supply, in that it is always a mix of energy from different sources and solar energy is a, it’s dependent on weather elements to a great deal and it takes a lot to balance it with the other regular power supply. So how do you look at that?
A: Well, solar power is not only about clean energy, because renewable energy helps us to reduce the level of pollution in the environment. But it’s also about India’s energy security. Because nobody can ever take away the sun from us, the sun will always be there. We could have a crisis or a problem about any other element but the sun will always be there. And, therefore, this government is encouraging solar power in a big way. I am delighted to share with the esteemed audience here that when this government was sworn in on 26th May, 2014, India had a solar power base of 2,650 MW. On 10th March, just last week, India crossed 10,000 MW, nearly four times.
When we came into government, India’s National Solar Mission was about expanding our solar base to 20,000 MW by 2022. Prime Minister Modi said this is not good enough, India should be at the vanguard, at the forefront of the solar revolution in the world. We decided we will scale it up by 2022, not to 20,000 MW only but to 1 lakh MW – 5 times more. So effectively, we would be increasing the solar capacity of India by 40 times in a span of about 7 or 8 years. And we are working day and night to make that happen.
Solar power will be an important element powering our electricity infrastructure. Its share of installed capacity, including other renewable sources like wind energy, bio-mass, bio-gas, small hydro, is expected to grow up to 1,75,000 MW by 2022, when India turns 75, which will be roughly 40% of India’s installed capacity. And while in Paris, we have committed that by 2030, India will have an installed power base of 40% renewable energy. My own sense is we will achieve that much earlier, and by 2030, India could possibly even cross 50% of its installed capacity coming out of renewable energy.
Of course, there are challenges and there are issues associated with that. You mentioned about grid balancing and absorbing large amounts of power from renewable sources which is not continuous. The solar power goes up during the day, comes down in the afternoon, wind energy comes at different times of the day. So certainly, this is infirm power. It doesn’t have a standard trajectory. But that is where India’s technological strength comes in, our planners, the grid planners and grid managers have already drawn up a plan how we will absorb such large amount of renewable energy. And I can assure you that at no point of time India will fail to be ahead of the curve to be able to absorb this large amount of renewable power.
Q: Is electricity storage also a part of it because so far nobody, there’s only been one major project of 10 MW in which solar power, in which power has actually been stored for over 4 hours. So is electricity storage some part of it because that helps balance the supply as well?
A: I think electricity storage is the future. We are still getting there. Of course, battery prices have fallen significantly in the last decade or so, almost by 70%. But we are still quite expensive in terms of battery storage and the viability of that, particularly, for a country like India where affordability of power is very important, has yet to be achieved. So it will take us a few more years before we can really look at storage becoming the grid balancer. Till that time we are looking at how gas-based plants can be reignited and helped to restart despite non-availability of gas in India to act as a grid balancer, as a spinning reserve. We are looking at pump storage, the hydro plants. We are also examining if we could promote electric vehicles in the country which will provide a natural storage through the batteries that will be used in the electric vehicles.
So we are continuously engaging with experts, both in India and internationally, to see how we can ensure better balancing of the grid and proper quality power reaching the people.
Q: To push the use of LEDs in the country as a source of power conservation, the government had stepped in. They had provided subsidies; they had resorted to distribution of bulbs. In power storage for promoting batteries and technologies related to batteries, is the government stepping in somewhere?
A: Well, the LED certainly has been a very successful experiment and, before I come to the battery I would like to share with all of you. Just the changeover from our incandescent bulbs to LED bulbs is already saving the people of India nearly Rs 20,000 crore per year of electricity bills, which benefit I hope all of you are also enjoying if your lighting at home or office is not yet LED, I would urge you to move to LEDs. Because by the time India changes all our lighting load with LEDs, India would actually be saving Rs 40,000 crore in electricity bills annually, just by this switchover.
In battery storage, we are working on a twin track. There are some pilot projects which we have initiated to test out what an impact it could have, we are also looking at certain areas where battery storage could play a role. For example, at the border areas, we could possibly see battery areas helping us to provide grid security, rather than diesel or petrol-based generating plants. We are also looking at the islands like Andaman and Nicobar islands, where we believe we can green those islands with a mix of hydro power, solar energy, wind energy and battery storage as a backup. But we are still a long way away from really pushing the needle on battery storage.
Q: Solar power and wind power, they both require large land parcels. How are you addressing land and environmental concerns related to these?
A: Well, solar power today needs about 5 acres per megawatt, which is certainly a lot of land. But I think that’s not a challenge for a country like India, in fact, it’s a great opportunity and I will explain how. There are large parts of the country, large tracts of land which are barren land, which are desert land where we don’t have any agriculture or any plantations. Now these barren lands actually don’t earn any income for the owners of these lands. So you have a large part of land in Barmer, for example, in Rajasthan, where the people who own those lands have actually no income. Solar provides them an avenue, an opportunity to make money, to earn money. And, in that sense, solar can be converted into a great opportunity to help generate power, give an income to those land owners, as well as provide clean and renewable energy for the nation.
Q: One, whenever we have elections in the country, a lot of people campaign on the premise of providing free or subsidized power to the farmers. How good a policy is this?
A: I have no problem if state governments are willing to subsidise and give cheaper or even free power to the farmers. You are well aware that the farmers of India are under a lot of stress. They have small land holdings. The output out of the farms is low, large parts of the farmlands in India are still dependent on vagaries of nature, so if you have the Al Nino effect, or drought or any flood happening, they will lose out on their income from farming. So farming in India, particularly, small and marginal farmers even today face a lot of stress and, therefore, giving them subsidized or low-cost or even free power is not a bad idea per se. But the state should ensure that the DISCOM also works efficiently and the power is not wasted. They should ensure that the subsidy is provided through the state budget or is cross-subsidized through the power bills of the larger or the richer consumers or of industry. And if they maintain the balance such that the DISCOM per se does not start losing money, I think it’s not a bad idea to serve the poor of India or the farmers of India with low-cost power.
Q: Finally, the last question from me. After Fukushima, a lot of concerns have been raised about nuclear power on which like entire Europe, North America and all have been dependent for so many years. And which in a way is also safe in some sense and, but when you have a disaster it’s always a major disaster. How is India looking at nuclear power as a future?
A: India has a progressive mind about nuclear power. We believe it is a clean source of power. It is an efficient source of power. Yet, at no point of time will we compromise with the safety and security of the people of India. So we are ensuring that the best of technologies come into the country. We are ensuring that whatever plants are designed and planned for India should be of the most, latest vintage, the latest technologies and any expansion on nuclear power will only be done keeping the best interests of the people of India, their safety and security and the overall geo-political and energy security of the country being kept in mind when any decisions are taken on the nuclear power sector.
Q: Thank you Mr Goyal, we would now like to throw the floor open for questions from…….
I had a lot of questions from the crowd and most of them already been addressed, I have just got one simple question which stays persistent and has been asked in the past as well. Probably, it is going to be a very monotonous question for you but a very simple one. So, there are these two farmers and they are asking us, or they are asking for an assurance that when can I have electricity to my village. So, this is a gentleman from Uttar Pradesh and he is asking us that by when can I have electricity to my village?
A: Well, as per the records submitted by the state government, there are only about a 100 odd villages in Uttar Pradesh where electricity has not reached. But that does not mean every farmer has got electricity as yet because there are a number of habitations जिसको हम मजला, टोला, धानी बोलते हैं | The revenue village does have electricity but it has yet to reach the habitations around the village. Also, large parts of Uttar Pradesh, you will be amazed, there are nearly 1.8 crore families, which means even if you look at the young boys and girls who are studying you could possibly have 4 crore students in Uttar Pradesh who are deprived of a simple thing like electricity. There are many farmers who don’t have electricity as yet.
The honorable Chief Minister has already contacted me three days back, he’s already had a basic framework discussion and I can reassure all the assembled friends here that Prime Minister Modi had made a commitment about new India. He had made a commitment that India will have a shelter on every citizen on this country, electricity, clean water, good schooling, good healthcare, sanitation in his home by 2022 when India turns 75. And I can assure all of you that that commitment is something we are all absolutely committed to and will achieve without any doubt.
Q: सर, यह हमारे युवाओं के बीच से आप के लिए यह सवाल आया है, सवाल तो कई हैं लेकिन समय की पाबन्दी की वजह से यह अंतिम सवाल हम ले रहे हैं आपसे कि T&D losses, Transmission and Distribution losses के बारे में आपने बताया कि किस तरीके से सरकार उसपे काबू पा रही है, गुजरात का उदाहरण भी आपने दिया | Overhead wiring से कब भारत को निजात मिलेगी, मुक्ति मिलेगी?
A: बहुत अच्छा प्रश्न है, उलटे by coincidence, कल ही इस विषय पे हमारे अधिकारियों के साथ मैं बैठा था | वास्तव में मैंने वाराणसी में एक पायलट प्रोजेक्ट शुरू किया है जिसमें कुछ 16 ward वाराणसी के लेके हम उसमें underground wiring कर रहे हैं | और एकदम चित्र ही बदल जाता है, उस शहर का चित्र एकदम नया सा शहर दिखता है जैसे ही वह लाइनें सब निकल के underground होती हैं, बिजली एकदम proper 24 घंटे मिलती है, कोई outage नहीं होता है | तो जीवन परिवर्तन करने वाला यह move है | यह इसपे investment, निवेश बहुत बड़ा लगेगा, आज देशभर में अगर सिर्फ शहरों में यह हम करने जाते हैं overhead को replace करके underground cabling, तो लगभग 20 लाख करोड़ रुपये का इसमें हमें निवेश करना पड़ेगा जो आज के भारत की आर्थिक स्थिति के हिसाब से मैं समझता हूँ कुछ समय लगेगा इसको अचीव करने के लिए | फिर भी हम केंद्र सरकार से कुछ योजनाएँ बनाने की कोशिश कर रहे हैं कि जो समृद्ध राज्य हैं कम से कम उन राज्यों में शुरू बड़े शहरों से करके अहिस्ते अहिस्ते इस विषय को बढ़ाया जाये | और जैसे मैं मुंबई से आता हूँ, मुंबई में लगभग सभी जगह underground cabling है तो उसका जो स्वाद है, उसका जो लाभ है लोगों को कि 24 घंटे बिना किसी interruption के बिजली मिलती है वैसा लाभ हमारे देश में और जगाओं पे मिले इसके लिए हम अब प्रयत्न शुरू करेंगे पर यह एक थोडा लम्बा समय का प्रोजेक्ट है |
March 24, 2017 Speaking at Media Fest 24 - MANTHAN 2017, New Delhi