An economics graduate from St Stephen’s College and an MBA from the IIM, Ahmedabad, Vinayak Chatterjee has often been called upon to play a strategic advisory role to leading domestic and international corporates, the Government of India, various Ministries dealing with infrastructure, as well as multilateral and bilateral institutions in the areas of infrastructure planning and implementation. In an exclusive interview to EnergyInfraPost.com, Vinayak Chatterjee Chairman of Feedback Infra spoke on various issues concerning the power sector.
Q: How would you rate the performance of the present government in the power sector and what is the road ahead and how has the industry received the initiatives announced by the government in the last two years?
A: Power sector in India is actually a chain with many segments, things like fuels –coal, gas, petroleum, solar etc, generation, transmission and distribution and last mile. Each element of this chain was deeply stressed before this government came to power in May 2014. Coal stock piles were dwindling and the country was on the verge of blackout. So far as generation was concerned it had completely crashed by then and there was no great enthusiasm in renewables. If you move to transmission there was a huge amount of black holes that otherwise impeding the country become a seamless transmission network. Distribution is lesser said the better. And finally last mile is basically taking electricity to every Indian household. In the last two years I have seen creative burst of energy like never before.
Q: What have been the significant changes? If you could list a few.
A: Coal is no more a crisis, sunshine is being tapped energetically, gas has been addressed partly. A significant amount of resetting has been done to the fuel side. On generation we are taking of surplus capacity being available. On discoms no better label than the UDAY scheme which tends to do two things simultaneously – it tends to alter the balance sheet of the discoms and gives them operational stress to bring down AT&C (aggregate technical and commercial) losses and finally the last mile connectivity mainly with the aim of connecting rural India is seeing positive upsurge from the village folk.
Q: Coal supply has increased and most thermal power stations have surplus fuel stocks. Does that mean demand for coal has dipped due to subdued demand for electricity as the discoms are not in a position to buy power?
A: Some states have come on board for the UDAY scheme. It is a medium term haul, it is not a magical wand. So what UDAY has done at one level – it has prevented the tsunami of NPAs hitting the banking sector, it has recast the balance sheets that has sensitized the states about the issue of discom losses. To prevent the states from bleeding we have to necessarily stop the discoms from bleeding.
Q: When will the power sector see the private investment coming back?
A: Investment in the power sector should be seen across segments. We have seen an upsurge in investments in wind and solar, there are certainly muted interest in coal and gas for obvious reasons. Lot of private sector is bidding for transmission projects, on distribution more and more cities and towns are being put up for private participation. And in the last mile connectivity there are companies which have got EPC (engineering, procurement and construction) contracts. Coal-based power plants are not on the agenda but that does not mean that private sector investments are not coming in power sector.