Engaging with India’s Electrification Agenda: Powering Assam

Author
Stephen Naimoli, Kartikeya Singh
Content Type
Working Paper
Institution
Center for Strategic and International Studies
Abstract
Assam is the most populous and economically active of the northeastern states and thus acts as the nexus between the mainland and the northeast. Due to insurgencies and armed conflict spanning several decades, Assam struggled to deliver many basic services to its citizens, including electricity, and failed to attract major industries. Coupled with the state’s unique topography of Himalayan foothills, forests, and a massive floodplain dominated by the mighty Brahmaputra River, infrastructure development in the state has not been easy. However, with the settling of several conflicts, the state is poised to be the economic engine of India’s northeast and take its place as India’s gateway to southeast Asia. To do so, it is focusing on agriculture, led by a thriving tea industry and energy resources—the state accounts for 15 percent of India’s total crude oil and 50 percent of onshore natural gas output. On the power sector side, Assam has increased the share of its population with electricity access from 44.57 percent in 2015 to 100 percent in 2019. An important measure of the health of the state’s electric power sector is aggregate technical and commercial losses (AT&C), which measure line losses from transmission and distribution equipment, power theft, billing and collection inefficiencies, and customers’ inability to pay. Assam’s AT&C losses in 2015 were 24.2 percent. Under the state’s Power for All plan formed with the central government, the state’s utility Assam Power Distribution Corporation Limited (APDCL) would target AT&C losses of 18.15 percent in 2019. As of August 2019, this goal has virtually been met—APDCL’s AT&C losses are currently 18.2 percent. Under the central government’s Ujwal Discom Assurance Yojana (UDAY) scheme, which aims to improve the financial health of the country’s utilities, Assam has a target of 150,000 smart meters for customers with monthly consumption between 200-500 kilowatt-hours (kWh) by December 2019. As of August 2019, the state has deployed 15,567 smart meters for these customers, 10 percent of its goal. The state also had a target to deploy 31,000 smart meters for customers with monthly consumption of over 500 kWh per month by December 2017, but to date has only deployed 11,881 smart meters, 38 percent of its goal. Assam has a target to install 663 megawatts (MW) of solar power in the state to contribute to the central government’s target of 100 gigawatts by 2022. As of May 2019, data from the Ministry of New and Renewable Energy indicate it has installed 22.4 MW, 3.38 percent of its goal.
Topic
Development, Energy Policy, Electricity
Political Geography
India, Asia