The silhouette of the evening electricity transmission pylon. Photo: iStock
The silhouette of the evening electricity transmission pylon. Photo: iStock

In its attempt to provide reliable power supply to households and businesses, Indian government plans to fine electricity distributors from April 2019 for power cuts deemed avoidable and to make it mandatory for the companies to take measures to prevent electricity theft, reports Reuters.

Minister of State for Power and New and Renewable Energy Raj Kumar Singh has said 24×7 power is a fundamental right of every citizen and all states will have to ensure it by March 2019.

This is the latest initiative by the government to ensure reliable power supply in a nation of 1.3 billion people, where a quarter of households have no electricity supply. The government launched a US$ 2.3 billion project in September to provide the whole population with power by the end of 2018.

The minister said distributors would be fined if they cut power to customers unless the shutdown was caused by factors such as weather or a disaster beyond a company’s control. The fines would be imposed in the financial year starting April 1, 2019, he said, without giving further details.

Distribution firms sometimes cut power saying they do not have the cash to pay generating firms. The government says this could be solved by better bill collection and by reducing power theft by installing prepaid or smart meters to prevent those using unauthorised and unmetered grid links.

“Some states are not able to bill the consumers effectively,” Singh said, adding some Indian states were failing to collect payments for about 50% of power they supplied. “Where the consumers are billed properly, the recovery is around 95%,” the minister said.

Singh wants to curb power theft as part of an effort to fix the finances of debt-laden power distribution companies in states that have struggled to buy and supply enough electricity to consumers.

As part of its efforts to expand electricity supply, the government aims to distribute solar panels with battery packs to households in areas that are too remote for transmission lines.