Power is the one of the most constitutional input to the socio-economic development of a country. The trajectory growth of Indian economy majorly depends upon the performance and growth of the power sector. As estimated, India needs to target a power production of 8 lac MW from the current 1.6 lac MW to sustain present economic growth in next 25 years. In India’s post reform period, the power sector has witnessed radical changes in terms of restructuring of the earnest State Electricity Boards (SEBs). Today, along with government companies, large numbers of private investors are taking over a significant portion of this sector- particularly in generation and distribution.
In 2013, despite permission for 100% FDI in power projects, India has only two foreign players operating power plants— AES Corporation of the US and China Light and Power (CLP). AES had scaled down its operations restricting presence to its stake in a plant in Odissa. CLP on the other hand had scrapped thermal power plans and will only pursue renewable energy projects. Suzlon group’s 100.8 MW Rajasthan wind power project for CLP India got approvals last year in June. This Rajasthan project will boost CLP India’s wind portfolio to close to 1000MW. As another relief, a consortium led by Abu Dhabi National Energy Co. of the United Arab Emirates, is in the final stages of talks with the Jaypee Group. The wind sector in India predicted to be worth Rs 60,000 crore in 2020 and could create between 150,000 to 250,000 jobs
Recent deals also include the purchase by Singapore’s SembCorp Industries Ltd. of a 45% stake in a power project jointly owned by NCC Infrastructure and Gayatri Energy. A French energy company GDF Suez SA bought a 74% stake in a coal-fired power plant in south India owned by Meenakshi Energy & Infrastructure Holdings Pvt. Ltd. Seeing the trend it is clearly a good time for overseas companies to buy operational or under-construction plants. This shall be beneficial in shortening the long process of acquiring land and tedious series of government approvals.
Having said that, I the foreign investment in the sector would have been exponential given that local players are struggling with huge debt and high interest rate. Also, equity investment in existing projects by the global majors could have supported the highly leveraged companies like Lanco, GMR, GVK, among others.
“These global utilities are serious long term players with growth aspirations and don’t want to wait. They may allocate resources in other countries for better returns but could return to India if they see stability,” said Rahool Panandiker, Principal, The Boston Consulting Group. On the other hand, Indian companies are wary of new investments but those keen to expand their power generation capacity, like Tata Power are looking at countries like Vietnam and South Africa. CEO Rajiv Rattan in November 2014 told the press that -”We now have a stable government at the Centre which has included round the clock power supply as a priority. On the fuel side, we expect the government to put some of the coal cancelled blocks on auction soon… and we will bid for some of them and we are confident of securing at least a few of those mines.” He is confident that in the next two years all their plants shall be operational.
With the an estimated 10 million people entering work force in India every year for the next decade, the new government has no option but to focus at reviving the “allocated”, “underutilized” and “stalled” energy and power sector to ensure increase in employment opportunities. Though many projects are currently bleeding the sector has tremendous growth potential. Around 25% of India’s population still lacks access to electricity, according to the World Bank, and the nation’s Ministry of Power says the country suffers from a supply deficit of around 8%-10% during peak hours.
“We are hoping for a big revival in the power sector,” said Ashok Khurana, Director General of Association of Power Producers. Adding he said, “The sector is now looking up and waiting for a concrete set of actions to handle issues of fuel security, transmission congestion and electricity off-take.” Mr. Modi having clubbed the power, coal and new and renewable energy under one ministry is trying to break the “silos” for creating the ROAD to success for the sector. Headed by Minister Piyush Goyal who announced at the World Economic Forum’s India Economic Summit 2014 “Over the next five years, the Indian power sector would provide an investment potential of $250 billion of which $100 billion will come into the renewable energy sector and $50 billion for the transmission networks,’. This shall only be possible if Mr. Piyush ensures these three ministries work in tandem, and hopefully cut down some costs and ensure that the objective set by Prime Minster is achieved by streamlining the delivery mechanism. We have a huge power generating capacities currently lying idle on account of inadequate Gas. An immediate measure for helping these debt burdened companies would be “price-pooling” – pooling imported gas with local produce. Of India’s installed power generation capacity of 254,049.49MW, power projects totaling to 153,570.89MW are fuelled by coal and a capacity of 22,608MW is gas-based. Growth in the production of coal has been unable to keep up with demand—the power sector consumes nearly 78% of the domestic output.
Another step in the right direction is to resolve the coal supply impasse, where they plan to allot 74 of 204 coal blocks cancelled by the Supreme Court in September 2014, through a mix of auctions and allocations. Of these, 42 blocks with a production capacity of 90 million tonnes (MT) are operational and 32 with a capacity of 120 MT are ready to be mined, which indicates the immense employment opportunity in the Coal Sector again.
The long-pending Renewable Energy Bill has attracted the attention of the new government too, which aims to generate 1,00,000 MW of renewable energy by 2019. This area which was predicted to create 10.5 million job opportunities by 2012, could not do so due to various political reasons. The new legislation aspires that 10 per cent of the county’s power requirement should be met by renewable energy sources by 2020. The Bill seeks to address the problems in the Electricity Act of 2013 and the Energy Conservation Act of 2001 while boosting the energy supply by substituting fossil fuels besides promoting the development of renewable energy technology. The renewable energy sector would be declared as a priority investment sector, at the same time it would regularly be a part of the country’s investment priority plan. The solar industry, predicted to be worth Rs 32,000 crore, could generate between 117,000 to 235,000 jobs by 2020 and small hydro and biomass sectors are expected to be worth Rs 27,000 crore and Rs 32,000 crore respectively in 2020.
The reviving power sector tenders abundant opportunities for the qualified, talented, capable and young graduates and post graduates with diversified backgrounds like engineering, commerce, finance, accounts, human resource, law and logistics etc. There shall be a demand for experienced professionals in leading multinational consultancy companies which act as advisors to the sector. Soon we shall see specialized academic programs being run for the sector, because the employment opportunity in the same is abundant.