PFCL-Changing Power Scenario In India: Radhika Jha IAS

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Radhika Jha, IAS

Ministry of Power has recently launched URJA App which is one of the many initiatives the ministry is undertaking to IT-enable the power sector, says Radhika Jha, IAS, Executive Director, Power Finance Corporation Limited, in conversation with Gautam Debroy of Elets News Network (ENN). Excerpts:

You have been a part of the Department of Higher Education in Uttarakhand and now you are with the Power Finance Corporation Limited as the Executive Director, how do you perceive the change in roles and their significance?

As the Secretary of Higher education in the State of Uttarakhand, I had a different role to play like to manage the entire gamut of the Universities and colleges in Uttarakhand. Now moving from there to a national level, where I am looking at the urban flagship programme of the Government of India, i.e. the Integrated Power Development Scheme (IPDS) under the Ministry of Power, there is a change of sector and here I am working on the national horizon. As an IAS officer, we keep changing sectors and in the process learning is an on going curve, which I thoroughly enjoy.

The IPDS programme runs across all the States in urban towns of the country. It is a very challenging assisgnment and I am greatelysatisfied with my work because there is a huge opportunity in the power sector. IPDS is the flagship programme of Govt. of India and to implement that in all the States and contextualise our solutions, collaborations with the State is a very interesting experience for me. Power Sector has a critical domino effect on the economy and thus adds more meaning to my work.

What IPDS projects have been completed in Varanasi?

In Varanasi, under the IPDS, we have sanctioned projects worth around Rs 900 crore and the project deals with the strengthening of the entire distribution infrastructure of Varanasi. We have also undertaken the underground cabling of the entire old Kashi area. All overhead cables of old Kashi are now being made underground. We have also converged with the HRIDAY programme of the Urban Development Ministry to have heritage street lights done all over. Hon’ble Prime Minister Narendra Modi ji visited the IPDS programme on 22 December last year and saw the underground cabling work and appreciated the same as it was his dream project. We are now striving to complete the entire underground cabling in the next one year.

What is the outlay & objectives in the urban Power sector from side of the Government?

Govt. of India has great focus on the urban sector and through the IPDS programme which has a 60% grant component – we want to support States in strengthening their distribution infrastructure, (lines, meters, sub-stations, transformers etc.) and I.T. enablement. The outlay of the scheme is 32,612 cr. for new projects and the earlierscheme of R-APDRP stands subsumed into this with its full outlay for I.T.enablement, SCADA implementation, distribution strengthening etc. The goal ofcourse is to provide more reliable powerto the people and help DISCOMs to reduce their AT&C losses.

The Ministry of Power recently launched the URJA app could you share the details with us?

The Urja App is the first machine to machine App covering all the IT enabled towns in the country and putting all that data in the public domain. Under the erstwhile programme, we have enabled data centres and customer care centres across the country. Now we have linked all of these centrally on the URJA App wherein, ranking of all the discoms is done on the parameters of power reliability (which is System Average Interruption Frequency Index (SAIFI) and System Average Interruption Duration Index (SAIDI), on the connections released to the consumers,complaint redressal, (e-payments % etc.There is no manual punching of data on that App and we have spent only Rs. 7 lakhs to make this app. This transparent dissemination of data that will empower consumers to demand for better power services from DISCOMs’.

All the States, Discoms and towns are ranked on this app. In times to come, we are also planning to have news flashes on the Urja app to connect more with the people in a transparent, accountable manner.

Do you think that the renewable energy can play an important part in strengthening the urban power sector?

The focus of the Ministry of Power under the leadership of Hon’ble Power Minister Sh. Piyush Goyal is on the renewable sector and the same can play a great role. As of now, power availability in the country is good but grid stabilisation and linkage issues may get effectively resolved if renewables come on the forefront. We can make power much more affordable in coming days and to actualize the dreamof 24X7 power, renewable energy and their integration into the system will play a very important role in the coming days.

Renewable energy and their integration into the system will play a very important role in the coming days.

Are you getting full support from the State governments?

Yes, we have 100 percent support and coordination in our working. Whenever there is a flagship programme, we have to implement it with full force but also contextualise the solutions as per the , the issues/challenges of the State. While implementing the IPDS scheme, I go to all the States, travel extensively and try to find a solution as per the State’s needs/ suggestion. Real action is at the level of the DISCOM/ State and our role is to handhold/ support technically/financially etc.

Is the power sector ready for new initiatives, as far as the funds are concerned?

There is no crunch of funds with regard to the IPDS programme and the full credit goes to the Ministry of Power under the leadership of Hon’ble Power Minister and Secretary. We are disbursing money to all the State governments in time and are also monitoring it very well. Effective disbursements lead to speedy implementation on the ground.

What challenges are you facing in implementing the projects?

There is no challenge in implementation the projects as we have good synergies in the system i.e. Govt. of India and the States, but the capacity of the market to implement projects simultaneously is less to begin with, which will definitely settle in the coming days.

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