The Centre plans to follow the Gujarat model in its efforts to push the next round of power sector reforms with the aim of energizing the country, according to Piyush Goyal who took charge as minister of state (independent charge) for power, coal and renewable energy ministries."I do plan to visit Gujarat along with my team to get a first-hand experience of Gujarat turnaround story and meet their ministers. They have been extremely successful in the renewable energy sector also," Goyal said after assuming charge at the ministry.
Piyush Goyal (49) is the first minister to head the power and coal ministries. The renewable energy ministry too has been added to the cluster since it supplements power supply, accounting for 8% of total electricity produced in the country.
Allaying apprehensions of possible conflict of interest in heading the two ministries that have been at loggerheads, Goyal said there were "commonality" of challenges and synergies that would help him sort inter-ministerial issues. "The intention is to debottleneck the system."
Narendra Modi turned Gujarat into a power-surplus state by restoring the financial health of the state utility, implementing the idea of separate feeders for farm and domestic sectors as well as metering all consumers to reduce transmission loss — a euphemism for theft.
But Goyal may not find the going as smooth since power is a concurrent subject where the state governments have to agree for any initiative to go through. Since most of the state governments are averse to reforming power tariff — the key component of sustainable reforms and growth — any new initiative faces the threat of getting bogged down in Centre-state politics.
Without general tariff reforms, it would be difficult to revive the idling gas-fired power plants, aggregating some 24,500 MW worth Rs 124,000 crore of investments, since no one would buy costly electricity produced from imported fuel.
The coal ministry has emerged as the whipping boy of power producers over issues of inadequate supplies, pricing and poor quality. A strong regulator is expected to sort many of these issues and cut red tape. Another imperative is to raise domestic production by speeding up green nod, quickly constructing missing railway links to improve transportation and expand washeries.
Goyal also needs to bring states on board since they hold the key to granting mining and forest licences, land acquisition, relocating people displaced by mine projects as well as law and order.