Piyush Goyal’s demeanour tells that he wants to crank up the rusty sector and literally infuse some “energy” into it so that the consumer becomes the king. He has prioritised areas with the power ministry that he wants to address. He wants the Capital to have 24x7 power supply and the country to get uninterrupted power supply within his tenure as power minister. Speaking to Samiran Saha of The New Indian Express, he says a lot needs to be done and done really fast for the masses to reap the benefits. Excerpts:
What is it that you have taken up as your priority area?
To revive stalled investments and projects in the sector, to stop import of expensive coal by enhancing domestic mining, provide adequate fuel to power plants so that they run at 90 per cent plant load factor and reduce transmission and distribution losses. We are taking a holistic view of the entire sector but affordable, reliable and cheap power is what we want every Indian to have access to and we will make that happen.
Give us an overview of the sector that you have inherited.
It is in public domain that in the last few years due to a combination of bad planning and policy inaction the sector has had multiple challenges. It has led to a situation where there are a large number of unfinished projects, even worse many projects that are ready to generate have no fuel because of an acute shortage of coal and gas. Low growth in power production over several years and then in 2009 the introduction of “go and no go areas” led to mining activity coming to a standstil. Then in 2012 that was withdrawn only to be replaced by the inviolative areas which till date remain undefined and no one knows what is the criterion of inviolative areas, therefore no work on the mining front can be started. We are also besieged with serious problems of transmission and distribution, power theft that have been plaguing the sector.
Availability coal to power India’s power plants has been a serious challenge. How do you plan to overcome it?
There a number of possibilities to enhance coal production. We are looking at exploring not only new mines but also revive old and abandoned mines through new and state-of-the-art technology. I have formed a small advisory group that will look at new initiatives and will also explore new technologies that render cost effective solutions without causing any damage to the environment.
Solar energy has a lot of potential. How do you plan to harness it?
Solar power is one area that we are keen to harness. At present, we do not have enough indigenous production. We are looking at how we can enhance capacity in solar sector as much as we would want the country to expand its capacities in wind, offshore and other sources to make the country an energy surplus nation. The idea is to revive the sector through fresh investments and impetus.