Spinning an electricity turnaround in Uttar Pradesh

An Economic Times (ET) report on 26 Apr credited the newly elected Bharatiya Janata Party government in Uttar Pradesh (UP) for a dramatic turnaround in the state’s electricity situation. The news report claimed that UP had “shed blackouts within a month of the BJP taking over the reins, moving from perennially running short of electricity to ‘zero-shortage’ in April”.

Soon enough, Power Minister Piyush Goyal shared the article with an approving tweet:


That’s a whopper.

It is certainly true that UP’s energy deficit (measured in million units) hit a record low in Mar 2017 of 0.2%, compared to a much bigger gap of 10.5% a year ago in Mar 2016. However, it would be ridiculous to give the new government credit for this improvement: the UP election results were declared on 11 Mar, and a new government sworn in on 19 Mar.

The ET article cited unpublished data from the National Load Despatch Centre, which oversees the national electricity grid, to show that this improvement continued into April, but we’ll have to wait for numbers from the Central Electricity Authority to get a clearer idea.

But regardless of how April turns out, the ET claim completely elides the fact that power shortages in UP, and indeed all over India, have strongly diminished over the past year, as this chart vividly shows:

Screen Shot 2017-04-29 at 12.53.50 PM

India’s energy deficit fell sharply in the first half of 2016, and particularly so in UP. UP’s deficit (shown here as a 3-month moving average) converged with north India’s around Sep 2016, and by Dec 2016 had fallen below that level. This was unanticipated: the Central Electricity Authority’s 2016-17 Load Generation Balance Report had anticipated that UP would have an energy deficit of 6.5%, but it turned out to be only 1.7%. Since the BJP ran the state only 13 of those 365 days, the decline in UP’s power shortage had little to do with it, Goyal’s celebration notwithstanding.

Even so, fewer blackouts and less load shedding can only be good news, right?

Yes and no. As much as India’s power capacity has risen in recent years, it is more weak growth in demand that accounts for the disappearance of India’s once-chronic electricity shortages (see chart below):

Screen Shot 2017-04-29 at 4.10.34 PM.png

The chart above shows a steady decline in the growth of energy demand since 2014-15, both in UP and in India. This doesn’t have to be a bad thing; many economies display lower energy intensity as they grow, and technological advances could also play a role. Consider the UJALA scheme to promote energy-efficient LED bulbs: government claims likely overstate the energy savings by a factor of two (see Why you shouldn’t be bedazzled by Modi’s LED claims), but their adoption probably shaved a percentage point off 2016-17 energy demand. However, if the decline in demand reflects industrial weakness, and the lingering effects of demonetization, that would be an unhealthy sign. And the rapid decline in the growth rate of energy demand in the past two years is worrying.

Either way, one thing is clear: the ending of UP’s power shortage is part of a broader structural story that has little to do with the new UP state government. And no amount of PR claims dressed up as news reports can change this reality.

(This article was originally published in The Quint.)



6 thoughts on “Spinning an electricity turnaround in Uttar Pradesh

  1. swamy

    Let us ask simple questions and see if we get any answers.

    I assume the government is planning to sell the electricity, and not subsidize the entire thing for villages. So, let us ask the basic questions :

    1. how many electric meters have you fixed to the houses or homes or businesses?
    2. how much money have you collected as a result of this process?

    Running a live wire into the center of a village , and not doing the rest of it is not going to help anyone.

    similarly, with the aadhar linkage with the PDS system.

    1. are you supplying the same items as before the linkage? If not, why not.

    In telangana, as of this month, your Below Poverty line ration card gets you ONLY rice, and no other items. the Above poverty line cards are just wall decorations.

    2. state-wise division of numbers on savings, as your claim?
    3. what did you do with the saved money?
    4. did all the people who used to get ration before this linkage, get the same rations after?

    of course, filing a RTI might get you this information, and as per the new rules, it might get you killed as well.


  2. swamy

    indiaspend has some data details on this electrifying jumla. Perhaps this will give some clarity on what each one means when they say ‘village is electrified’.

    for example, for the government, it could mean that they ran a single one-phase wire to a pole at the centre of a village.

    for the village folks, it could mean lights in their homes.

    for the farmers of the village, if they can catch a live wire for relief from the problems of this world.


  3. swamy

    have you given up on posting here, and are off to pursue other fruitful options?

    i have log ago realized the uselessness of holding government to its own rules. if they were implemented strictly at they stood in 2014, BJP and congress would be unrecognized parties by the EC and ineligible to contest. instead , one of them came to power, and tinkered with the illy fcra violation rule, and applied it retroactively.

    brilliant minded mofos.

    how can anyone retain any faith in these people after such shenanigans?

      1. swamy

        intelligent people would 😉

        anyway, i am reading you on the little birdie, so we’ll see where the future leads us.

        may the powers give us sense, and others the same.

        Good luck.

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