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Of parallel grids and uninterrupted power


Vandana Gombar  |  New Delhi 

That bhaiya with the blue shirt has a connection. Ask him na. The blue-shirted bhaiya refused to admit anything of the sort. No connections here madam.
The response was the same as I squeezed through one small-shop to another on my maiden trip to the bustling in Old Delhi to look for parallel power grids.
The term "parallel grid" may sound fancy but it works rather simply. One enterprising fellow "" and it is my firm belief that India has millions of them "" invests in a genset. He then wires up a few small shops to the generator and gives the assurance of power back-up for a fixed monthly fee of a few hundred rupees. "I pay Rs 300 every month," says the old man who sells electrical knick-knacks out of a cramped 100 sq ft space in the crowded market.
Now this is illegal. The whole maze of wires that I saw at is illegal. Dedicated transmission lines are not allowed. But in a country where you can get away with murder (think Jessica Lall), this seems like a small offence. I am told "mohallas" (open non-gated communities) in cities across the country have adopted this scheme. And if you are an illegal colony to begin with "" like Sainik Farms "" you don't have many options anyway.
The key take-aways from this arrangement are two. Firstly, people do not wait for the government to shape up. They just work out alternatives and get on with life. It is for the government to take a lesson from the "natural" flow of events. And therein lies the second take-away.
The average consumer is able, and more importantly, willing to pay more for power, even though he knows that minus the power theft hidden in transmission and distribution losses, he would get more power at lesser cost.
Even those consumers falling outside these common arrangements, those who spend Rs 10,000 on an inverter or multiples of that on a genset, are willing to pay a few hundred rupees extra every month to get reliable, uninterrupted power.
That willingness to pay is what is being tapped through an innovative pilot plan currently being rolled out in Pune.
Power cuts are set to be eliminated in Pune urban circles by tapping into the surplus power available with large companies in their dedicated plants (captive power plants or CPPs). The additional cost to the consumers: upwards of about Rs 120 per month (@42 paise per kwh), depending on the usage.
This is after protecting low-usage domestic users who consume up to 300 units per month. The plan came from the Confederation of Indian Industry and the go-ahead order was passed by the state power regulator just 10 days ago. And you thought it was only the government which could solve your problems!

First Published: Wed, May 24 2006. 00:00 IST