The Gujarat government has long claimed that one of the major reasons for the state’s economic progress has been its “excellent” power sector performance. The state’s policy makers have argued, on the basis of Government of India data, that Gujarat’s power consumption, in per capita terms, is one of the highest in India. Gujarat’s new chief secretary D Jagatheesa Pandian, for instance, said in an interview in 2013, quoting Central Electricity Commission figures, when he headed the state energy department, that the per capita consumption of electricity in Gujarat in 2012 was around 1,516 units as against the national average of 879 units. He insisted, “This figure indicates the progress and growth happening in the state. In Gujarat, state utilities are providing an uninterrupted supply of electricity, quality and reliable power to all consumers.” While this may be showcased to prove that Gujarat is at the top in the power sector, it does not tell the full story.
No doubt, the official figures, released in the Rajya Sabha, also suggest that things did not change much in the next year – out of 20 major Indian states, Gujarat’s per capita power consumption was the highest in India, except Punjab, whose per capita power consumption was 1,799 units (Gujarat’s was 1,663.2 units). However, what should make top state policy makers sit up and think is this — that the latest data released by the National Sample Service Organization (NSSO), India’s premier data collection centre operating under the Government of India, suggest that, while Gujarat may be ranking No 2 in per capita power consumption, when it comes to power consumption to individual households, the state is just an average performer – ranking a poor tenth in rural areas as well in urban areas out of 20 major states.
There is, so far, no explanation as to why this is so, and whether it is because of relatively poor purchasing power, as reflected in the NSSO’s own data (click HERE to read). Yet, the fact is, while calculating per capita power consumption on the basis of the Government of India data, the top state official refers to all types of consumers, including domestic, industrial, commercial, agricultural, the government and its agencies, public utilities, including street lights, water works and railway traction. Of the 67,961 million units of power consumed in 2013, industry consumed the highest – 28,372 million units, or 42 per cent, followed by agriculture, 22 per cent (15,124 million units). Domestic electricity supply made up of a little less than 16 per cent of the total – or 10,739 units.
If one were to separate domestic power supply from the rest, which is can be done by quoting the latest NSSO data, the myth that Gujarat is on the top of nearly all major states in per capita power consumption stands exposed. Calculating on the basis of the survey it carried out across India, the NSSO report, titled “Household Consumption of Various Goods and Services in India, 2011-12”, finds that, in rural areas, household power consumption was 10.7 units per capita per month, which is less than as many as nine other major states, while in the urban areas it is 23.6 units per capita per month, again less than nine other major states.
In fact, for the rural areas, the top ranking state in per capita per month household power consumption is Himachal Pradesh, with 31.9 units, followed by Punjab 23.1 units, Kerala 17.8 units, Tamil Nadu 17 units, Jammu & Kashmir 16.4 units, Haryana 15.8 units, Andhra Pradesh 15.7 units, Uttarakhand 13.7 units, and Maharashtra 11 units. The scenario is not very different for the urban areas, where the top ranking state is, again, Himachal Pradesh, with per capita per month household power consumption of 48.6 units, followed by Tamil Nadu 36.4 units, Punjab 35 units, Haryana 36.6 units, Kerala 29.7 units, Jammu & Kashmir 29.2 units, Maharashtra 27.7 units, Andhra Pradesh 25.6 units, and Odisha 23.9 units.
Details provided by the Gujarat government’s “Social Economic Review”, released this year, suggest that, while, domestic power consumption, as proportion to the total power consumption, was 14 per cent in 2009, and rose to 15.8 per cent, and of agriculture rose from 21.1 per cent to 22.3 per cent, the industrial power consumption rose higher than both. As against 35.3 per cent of the total power consumption in 2009 (when it was 55,610 million units), industrial power consumption reached 41.8 per cent of the total (67,971 million units) in 2013. This suggests that industry took away a larger cake of the total power consumption than the other two important sectors, agricultural and domestic.
Clearly, while Gujarat has been loudly claiming to provide nearly 24 hour power supply, which is to a great extent a correct assertion, this has not been able to lead to a situation where domestic power consumption also rises simultaneously and at a pace which is fast enough. The 24 hour power supply has been taking place because Gujarat is a surplus state in power production. As the state official himself says, “The present installed capacity on conventional sources is 18,270 MW and on renewable sources is 4,093 MW against the peak demand level of 12,348 MW. This means that there is an adequate capacity in existence to fuel the future growth and to meet the rising demand of all consumers.” He underlines, “Gujarat is power surplus and selling surplus power to other needy state utilities.”
*Senior journalist, firstname.lastname@example.org