• States to Get Centre’s Financial Support for Free Power Scheme

    The Centre will extend financial support to states to enable them to offer new electricity connections free of cost to everyone.

    At present, electricity connections to only below poverty line (BPL) families are offered for free. A senior government official said the Union power ministry has proposed to extend the free connections scheme to all in line with the Centre’s goal to achieve 24×7 power for all by March 2019.

    Rural Electrification Corporation (REC) is working on a scheme to provide long-term loans to states that agree to offer free new electricity connections. The scheme will be a key issue for discussion when Union power minister Piyush Goyal meets state power ministers during the two-day conference of power ministers starting October 7 in Gujarat. REC is working on a scheme for financing the power distribution companies so that they could release new electricity connections to households.

    The scheme covers funding of expenses like laying of lines to give access to electricity, installation of meters and other accessories. As per the plan, the distribution companies will have to get new connection plans approved by REC, which will reimburse expenses incurred by power utilities in giving electricity access to households.

    “It will be an optional scheme for the states. Some states may not see merit in providing free power connections to remote areas that are not connected to the electricity grid. We would encourage such states to at least offer electricity connections on easy monthly instalments of as low as 100 per month for 4-5 years,” the government official said.

    The Centre has shifted focus to 100% household electrification in all states from the rural electrification programme where a village is declared electrified if 10% of households and all public places have electricity access. It has asked all states to assess the number of unelectrified households and cost estimate for creating the necessary infrastructure to provide the electricity access. As per preliminary estimates, there are 5.98 crore unelectrified households in India.

    The government targets to provide access to electricity connections to all Indian citizens by December 2018, while it aims to make power available 24*7 to all by March 2019, ahead of the earlier target of March 2022. Sebastian Janikowski Jersey

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