In an indication of growing appetite for electricity in India, the country's per capita electricity consumption has reached 1010 kilowatt-hour (kWh) in 2014-15, compared with 957 kWh in 2013-14 and 914.41 kWh in 2012-13, according to the Central Electricity Authority (CEA), India's apex power sector planning body. "The per capita electricity consumption reached 1010 kWh some time back," said a senior government official, requesting anonymity.
But experts are far from enthused from the increasing consumption figure.
"Per capita electricity consumption crossing 1,000 units a year is certainly a milestone, but without much significance. One-fourth of the households in the country still have no access to electricity, with some states in East and North East having less than even 30% households with (electricity) access. Most significant milestone that the nation must achieve is 100% households having 24x7 quality supply of electricity," said Debasish Mishra, senior director, consulting, Deloitte Touche Tohmatsu India Pvt. Ltd.
India's per capita power consumption is among the lowest in the world. Around 280 million people in the country do not have access to electricity. In comparison, China has a per capita consumption of 4,000kWh, with developed nations averaging around 15,000kWh per capita.
Interestingly, while the peak shortage in the country was at 2.3% in May, many believe that the demand still looks artificially suppressed as state electricity boards (SEBs) are not buying power. SEBs have been unwilling to procure electricity because of their weak financials due to low tariffs, slow progress in reducing losses, higher power purchase costs and crippling debt. India has an installed power generation capacity of 272,503MW.
A power ministry spokesperson didn't immediately respond to queries emailed on Sunday.
Meanwhile, minister for power, coal and renewable energy Piyush Goyal has maintained that the states have not been buying power. "Some state governments haven't cooperated as much as they should... we urge them to increase it. Otherwise they would receive an appropriate response from the electorate in the coming days," Goyal said at a press conference on 25 May.
Electricity generation was the silver lining in the May index of industrial production data. Electricity output, which contracted 0.5% in April, recovered to grow 6% in May.
"Of our installed capacity, only around 145,000MW is operational. While the supply curve is evident, where is the demand curve?" asked the official quoted above.
India needs as much as $200 billion to meet its target of installing 100,000MW of solar power capacity and around 60,000MW of wind power capacity by 2022.
The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) had made energy security a part of its election campaign for the April-May 2014 general election. After assuming office in May, the BJP-led government launched a scheme aimed at ensuring about eight hours of quality power supply to agricultural consumers and 24-hour electricity to households.