This is Arvind Kejriwal’s plan to provide power to Delhi: He has asked the government to supply a coal block for a new ultra mega power plant. This plant would then be operated by a private company and would sell cheap and reliable power to Delhi. What a nice thought! Except, we don’t live in fairyland. Better idea: let power prices be determined by the market and give Delhi a workable regulatory framework to build rooftop solar.
- AAP wants a dedicated, privately run 4 GW coal plant for Delhi
- The center (BJP, pro-market) is very unlikely to grant Delhi (AAP, cheap power populism) that wish
- Instead of bad ideas from the past, the Delhi government should look at good ideas for the future – e.g. solar
Here is flash from the past: a party gives a populist election promise of cheap power, then turns to India’s public resources (coal) to give them away at rock-bottom prices to a private enterprise in the (really?) hope that they will build it quickly and sell the power at very cheap rates to Delhi so that the government can then supply it (reliably and for free?) to its citizens. In the words of Delhi’s chief minister, Mr. Kejriwal: “We have requested the GoI (government of India) to give a coal block to us, wherever it may be available. We will soon send a formal request to them about this. Our plan is to have 4,000 mw power of our own over the next four-five years”.
Quick reality check: Firstly, the national government is thinking along exactly opposite lines: they want to rationalize the electricity market, raising consumer tariffs to make the operations of India’s utilities profitable in order to allow for much needed investment into grids and new generation capacity. Secondly, the central government (BJP) is unlikely to support the demands of Delhi’s government (AAP) purely on political grounds. And, even if it were inclined to do so, is there any good reason why Delhi – one of India’s richest states – should get cheaper access to India’s natural resources than any other state? Thirdly: if the past is a relevant guide to the future, a look at the history of coal ultra-mega projects and private, captive coal blocks should be very discouraging.
That raises the question of whether the AAP is either not on top of the game or whether this might just be political posturing. In either case, this is a great shame, because with the overwhelming mandate the party won in the recent state elections, it could be much, much more innovative. They should look to new solutions within Delhi, rather than wasting time with what did not work in the past and is not in their hands.
For instance: we have created a detailed mapping of Delhi’s available rooftop space and a road map for the city going solar (refer). The potential is more than 2 GW. Why not make that effort? Implementing a viable rooftop policy, which addresses net-metering, grid access rules and building codes would be a great start.
Tobias Engelmeier is the Founder and Director at BRIDGE TO INDIA