An overwhelming majority of Indian households are now connected to the electricity grid and are satisfied with the reliability of services, but the goal of universal access is yet to be achieved with a small number of consumers remaining off bound because they can’t afford it, according to a survey by the Council on Energy, Environment and Water (CEEW).
The studies are based on findings from the India Residential Energy Survey (IRES) 2020 conducted by CEEW in collaboration with the Initiative for Sustainable Energy Policy (ISEP). IRES covered nearly 15,000 households across 152 districts in 21 states of India, which was the first-ever national survey on the state of energy access, consumption and energy efficiency in Indian homes.
The studies found that more than 97 percent of Indian households were connected to the grid, with another 0.33 per cent relying exclusively on off-grid electricity sources such as solar home systems, solar mini-grids, and battery storage.
An estimated 2.4 per cent of Indian households remained unelectrified. Most of such households were concentrated in the rural areas of Uttar Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, and Bihar. The inability to afford grid-electricity was a key reason for these households to not have a connection.
“With nearly all households electrified, India’s energy policy must now focus on sustaining electricity use and consumer satisfaction,” said Shalu Agrawal, Programme Lead at CEEW. “Reliable supply, efficiency in revenue collection, and consumer-centric service delivery would be central to achieving these goals.”
“We also need to implement ultra-low tariffs for poor households across all states,” she said.
More than 20 per cent Indian homes bought their first fan and television set during the decade of 2010-20. “We expect to see multiple positive spillovers like higher demand for consumer durables, industrial growth, and livelihoods,” Agrawal added.
Both the study found that there was an improvement in metering in several states, including a six-fold improvement in Uttar Pradesh. However, billing issues remained pronounced in rural areas adding to the burden of discoms’ poor finances.
Jharkhand had the lowest share of grid users billed regularly (55 percent), followed by Bihar (64 percent). Billing irregularities were high in Assam, Uttar Pradesh, and Madhya Pradesh as well.
Satisfied rural consumers
It says that 93 percent of grid-electrified Indian households had metered connections and 91 per cent were billed regularly according to two independent studies. The studies also found that 77 per cent of grid users were satisfied with their electricity services.
Further, consumer satisfaction in the rural areas of Bihar, Jharkhand, Madhya Pradesh, Odisha, Uttar Pradesh, and West Bengal had more than tripled from 23 percent in 2015 to 73 per cent in 2020. The studies, which also examine energy efficiency in Indian households, found that 88 percent of Indian homes had LED bulbs on the back of the Government’s Unnat Jyoti program.
“Our focus is now going to be on quality, reliability and consumer satisfaction to increase satisfaction rates from 77 per cent to 90 per cent and even higher,” said Sanjay Malhotra, additional secretary, Ministry of Power. “We are setting up a committee to develop a framework to rank the distribution companies.”
He said that currently state-run discoms lose almost a rupee per unit sold, and therefore efforts were needed to improve their condition while simultaneously providing electricity to poorer households.
According to the survey, an average Indian household received 20.6 hours of power supply from the grid. While urban households received 22 hours of power supply, two-thirds of rural and two-fifths of urban households face outages at least once a day.
Households in Delhi, Kerala, and Gujarat receive more than 23 hours of daily supply, while households in Uttar Pradesh, Jharkhand, Haryana, Assam, and Bihar face the longest power outages.
India is yet to achieve access to affordable, reliable, sustainable and modern energy for all. CEEW said that reaching such a goal would require not only identifying and intensifying electrification for the remaining 2.4 percent households, but also improving affordability.