Tuesday March 19, 2019
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Modi government introduces ‘Uday’ to revive ailing power sector

Photo: http://www.constructionweekonline.in

New Delhi: With the losses of electricity distribution companies in India touching a staggering Rs.3.8 trillion ($58 billion), the cabinet on Thursday approved a major restructuring and revival package for the sector, with both checks and incentives, to remove what is considered the weakest link in the government’s ambitious plan of power for all by 2022.

At a crucial meeting of the cabinet, presided over by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, the nod was given to a fiscal turnaround and revival package for electricity distribution companies, hoping to help them break even in two years time and wiping out all their accumulated losses by 2019.

Termed Uday, or dawn in English, the package is based on the premise that initiatives towards 100 percent electrification in rural areas, full-time power supply across the country, and the increasing use of clean energy cannot be achieved without the discoms performing to their full potential.

“In addition to the impact it has on the power sector, the default on bank loans by financially-stressed discoms also has the potential to seriously impact the banking sector and the economy at large,” Coal and Power Minister Piyush Goyal said at a press conference after the cabinet meet.

“Due to legacy issues, discoms are trapped in a vicious cycle. Operational losses are being funded by debt. The outstanding debt of these discoms has increased from about Rs.240,000 crore in 2011-12 to about Rs.430,000 crore in 2014-15 — with interest rates of 14-15 percent,” the minister said. The outstanding debt stands at Rs.380,000 crore.

Minister Goyal said based on the extensive discussions which his ministry has been holding in recent weeks and months, all stakeholders — the discoms themselves, the states governments, the regulators, and the lenders — were to be on board regarding the proposed package.

The minister said that the Uday package includes steps to reduce the interest burden of discoms by as much as 600 basis points, by converting 75 percent of their debt into state government bonds. These bonds, he added, will bear the same interest as that for government securities, plus 50 basis points.

He said the cabinet approval also laid emphasis on both bringing down the cost of generating power with steps like better coal linkages and levying lower tariffs to ensure zero financial losses from 2019. “For the first time, we are also imposing budgetary constraints on the state governments,” he added.

The conversion of debt into bonds — of up to 50 percent this fiscal and another 25 percent in the following year — will be included as part of the state’s fiscal deficit from 2018-19, he added.

The minister said the results will be visible in a matter of just two years with the creation of necessary fiscal space for the discoms to take proactive steps towards access to funds and financial stability.

The package today is a follow-up to a a high-powered meeting chaired by Prime Minister Modi in mid-September on resolving the issue of distress among the state-run utilities, that have accumulated debt worth a staggering Rs.500,000 crore as in September.

“This is the weakest link in the value chain,” said the minister, adding distribution companies had accumulated losses of worth Rs.3.8 lakh crore as of March this year, with an outstanding debt of approximately Rs.4.3 lakh crore.

Eight states, sources said, have the bulk of the distressed assets among their distribution companies — Rajasthan, Tamil Nadu, Haryana, Uttar Pradesh, Andhra Pradesh, Telangana, Bihar, and Jharkhand. Among them, the minister clarified, the first four have accumulated the maximum debt.

The cabinet nod also comes against the back of the latest World Bank study, conducted at the request of the government, expressing concern that despite the impressive strides in the Indian power sector, distribution to end-consumers remained the weakest link due to the fragile financial health of discoms, preventing fresh investments for better services.

“These losses are overwhelmingly concentrated among distribution companies and bundled utilities — state electricity boards (SEBs) and the state power departments,” said the World Bank study, adding this had pushed up the power sector’s debt to over Rs.500,000 crore.

During the media briefing, the power minister sought to take credit for his party in improving the situation during the BJP-led government till 2004, adding that while the situation was all right till 2009 under United Progressive Alliance as well, subsequent years saw a marked deterioration.


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Not a single MW or unit of electricity is generated by Bihar government owned power plants: Piyush Goyal

Photo: Economic Times

By NewsGram Staff-Writer

Patna: Piyush Goyal, the Union Power Minister stated that the electricity generated in Bihar power plants was zero. The statement came after the Nitish Kumar’s state government published a full-page advertisement in newspapers that claimed that Bihar has improved its power scenario.


The Economic Times report quotes Goyal as saying: “Not a single MW or unit of electricity is generated by Bihar government owned power plants. The entire power supply to Bihar is being met by the Centre.

The Minister added that the Center is providing 2800 MW of power to Bihar on a daily basis, out of which around 484 MW of power is beyond the allocated share of the state.

Goyal said: “The ground reality belies all those claims being made by the Nitish Kumar government about improvement in power situation in Bihar.” And asked the state government about when it is going to start power production, as per the ET report.

Goyal also hit back at the Bihar government regarding transmission infrastructure and transmission losses. He said that at least 46% of the power gets lost during transmission which is “unacceptably high”. Pointing towards the poor quality of transmission infrastructure, Goyal said that during last five years, around 46000 transformers had been changed due to their poor quality. He added that with the current transmission infrastructure consisting of 628 power stations and 98 grid sub-stations, it is not possible to provide electricity to all villages.

The per capita power consumption in Bihar is just 200 units, as against 1000 units at the national level.