From Candles to lights: Impact of Rural electrification

Highlights :

  • Shashank Agarwal, Managing Director at Salasar Techno Engineering Limited makes a case for rural electrification.
  • The case for electrification has never been more compelling, considering the huge prospects at stake for the country’s young population, especially in rural areas.

Access to affordable electricity for each and every household is key for social and economic development. In India, millions of people still live without electricity in rural areas, but several schemes have been launched to bridge the gap between rural and urban areas.

Electrification could be a panacea for several problems rural areas face as it will solve to a huge extent the problem of education, health, and connectivity. Moreover, electrification would mean economic development through the creation of employment in rural areas. In a way, it will bring a 360-degree change in the lives of villagers and provide ample opportunities. However, there are plenty of challenges that hinder the progress in rural areas, among them, are:

1) Setting up rural electricity infrastructure.
Expanding the national grid is expensive and countries consistently lack the capital to grow their current infrastructure. Rural electricity infrastructure requires hefty investments and takes years to build which only add to the costs.

2) Providing cheap access to electricity.
The cost of power supply to rural areas is high. As a majority of the rural households cannot afford high-cost supplies, utilities are reluctant to supply the required quality and quantity of electricity in these areas. However, infrastructure development has eased the issue to an extent.

3) Providing connectivity to households.
Even if electrified, not all villages are getting quality power accessing less than 50kWh per month/household. The government, through its schemes, aims to provide last-mile power connections to improve the health, education, and connectivity of millions of families in rural areas. This will lead to increased economic activities and job creation.

4) High initial capital cost
High operation and maintenance costs are among the major concerns in rural electrification. Logistics and planning are tough in remote areas and require meticulous planning.

5) Low consumer density
Rural areas have fewer appliances in use so most of the electricity is used for lighting and air circulation. Most households find it tough to afford as they are economically disadvantaged, besides, an uncertain power supply and the long duration of power cuts can also deter potential customers from adopting electric grid connections.

So far, the government has been able to identify and resolve issues related to electrification with schemes such as Deen Dayal Upadhyaya Gram Jyoti Yojana (DDUGJY), still, we are yet to achieve the target of 100% electrification in rural areas. The government has been working hand in hand with various firms under DDUGJY to bring electricity to villages over the country. The DDUGJY aims at feeder separation (agriculture and non-agriculture), improvement of sub-transmission and distribution network, and metering to reduce losses. A few efforts under the scheme are:

1) Separation of agriculture and non-agriculture feeders
2) Strengthening and augmentation of sub-transmission & distribution
3) Rural electrification

Rural electrification has reduced isolation as people in rural areas are often cut off from the rest because of connectivity. Electrification means they also can have access to the internet through which they can connect easily and gain from the digitization. At the same time, electricity is needed to run schools and hospitals; it will improve the education system as digital learning can be introduced in these areas where opportunities are less.

Rural electrification can add to productivity as farming activities can be done efficiently. Most people use candles or kerosene lamps to do basic tasks in rural areas, with electricity reaching remote parts, it can transform the lives of people and change the economic scenario in these areas. Moreover, government and firms are working together to bring change in rural areas using the transmission lines to transmit electrical power from generating substation to the various distribution units. Various companies are encouraging the transmission lines to convey radio-frequency energy with minimum heating and radiation loss that is a great initiative taken for the rural areas and their subsequent growth.

By Shashank Agarwal, Managing Director, Salasar Techno Engineering Limited  

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